Lakeland students to return on hybrid basis mid-october
Lakeland students will return to classrooms on a hybrid basis in mid-october, though the district will continue offering an exclusively online option for families with coronavirus concerns.
Meeting virtually Thursday, the Lakeland School Board voted 8-0 to transition to the hybrid learning model Oct. 13. A pair of earlier motions — one to continue with online-only learning through Nov. 2, and another to transition to the hybrid model Oct. 5 — were rejected by the board.
Lakeland is one of five Lackawanna County school districts that started the school year exclusively online amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member John Yanochik did not participate in the virtual meeting.
Under the hybrid model, all students who opt to physically return to school will receive two full days of in-person instruction per week. Students in “Group A” will learn in classrooms on Mondays and Tuesdays, while students in “Group B” will do so on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will serve as an independent learning day and students will participate in live virtual sessions when their group isn’t physically in school.
The vote followed more than two hours of discussion where board members reviewed the results of a faculty survey, questioned administrators and listened to 179 submitted public comments read aloud. The majority of public comments endorsed a return to classrooms on a hybrid basis, but many commenters argued students should continue learning online in the interest of safety and consistency.
“Younger students are struggling,” Carbondale Twp. resident Justin Roberts argued in a submitted comment. “Technology is failing. Please bring the children back to school where they can learn . ... Please don’t push the date back.”
The faculty survey results, shared by district Curriculum Director Marian Carroll, showed a majority of teachers wanted to remain online or at least had concerns about transitioning to hybrid learning. Only 18.81% of teachers districtwide answered they were ready to return in a hybrid model, though Carroll said that number was higher, 27.6%, among elementary level teachers whose students may find virtual learning more challenging.
The Lakeland Education Association submitted a letter objecting to a hybrid transition in the near future. An internal poll conducted by the teachers union found that 85% of members preferred the continuation of online-only education, per the letter.
“Many faculty and staff have medical conditions that put them at risk of contracting the most severe cases of COVID-19,” the union argued in the letter. “Our students, staff, community and families will be at an increased risk for the contraction of the COVID-19 virus.”
Reached after the meeting, board President Mark Solomon said both the union and the many parents who implored the district to open its doors raised valid points. The board ultimately had to decide what is in the best interest of Lakeland students, he said.
“It was a tough decision,” Solomon said. “In my mind, I say this all the time, there’s no better education ... than when a teacher is standing in front of a child. And if we can provide that as an opportunity ... then generally the education excels from there.”