New DCPS plan will phase-out hybrid learning model

The revised plan will bring students back for on-campus learning for five days a week in a phased approach.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools on Wednesday announced that the state’s Department of Education has approved a change to the district’s reopening plan that will bring a gradual end to hybrid learning, delaying the full-time return to in-person learning for brick-and-mortar high school and middle school students.

The revised plan will bring students back for on-campus learning for five days a week in a phased approach.

The change starts next week with sixth-grade students. High School students won’t return to campus full time until Sept. 28.

Under the old plan, all hybrid students were scheduled to return to classes five days a week on Sept. 14.

“We’ve had a manageable experience with COVID-19 under the hybrid attendance pattern,” superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said in a prepared statement. “A measured, phased return to having all students on campus Monday through Friday will be extremely beneficial in bridging to larger attendance in school facilities.”

There was never a hybrid learning model for elementary students.

Here are the key dates listed by DCPS:

  • Sept. 14 – Grade six students return to campus Monday through Friday (all other secondary students remain on hybrid)
  • Sept. 21 – Grade seven and eight students return to campus Monday through Friday (all high school students remain on hybrid)
  • Sept. 28 – High School students return to campus Monday through Friday.

The change to the hybrid attendance structure has no impact on students who chose either Duval HomeRoom or Duval Virtual Instruction Academy, the district said.

Amy Mitchell, a mother of two, had chosen virtual learning for her fourth and ninth graders.

“Our kids are having a terrible time being separated from their friends, but we have to put our health first,” she said.

Shannon Russell is a teacher at Sandalwood High School.

“Putting all boots on the ground is just a plan for more problems,” Russell-Hinds said.

Both women are not in favor of the district’s new plan to stagger students' return to brick-and-mortar schools. They said the hybrid model that students have been using has worked fine.

“It just doesn’t seem to make sense to change something that is not perfect, but it is better than everyone being all in,” Russell-Hinds said.

During a board meeting last week, Dr. Jennifer Cowart -- a physician and parent -- shared her opinion.

“I’m a bit concerned about opening back up full brick and mortar and going away from the hybrid model when right now it seems like it’s working, and we only have a week worth of data,” Cowart said.

According to the school district’s COVID-19 dashboard, the majority of reported COVID-19 cases are in elementary schools.

Greene said in-person learning five-days a week could be the reason for the higher number of reported cases at elementary schools, whereas the upper-level schools are on hybrid schedules -- participating in both in-person and online learning.

On Wednesday, DCPS reported an additional nine cases of COVID-19 in the district. Those cases involved six students and three staff members.

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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

Joy Purdy co-anchors the 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. newscasts with Tarik Minor and the 11 p.m. weeknight newscasts with Kent Justice.