Hybrid School Schedules Are Logistical Nightmares

by Elisha Beach
Originally Published: 
Julia Meslener for Scary Mommy and jayk7/Maria Symchych-Navrotska/ Halfpoint Images/Getty

My kids are supposed to start in-person school soon. And although I have been counting down the days until this moment, I am not sure I will send them anymore. It’s not so much that I worry about safety protocols or think that they will contract COVID. It’s because I have four kids in three different schools, and these damn hybrid school schedules are logistical nightmares!

I was actually looking forward to my kids going back to school, and I completely understood the need to create a hybrid school schedule — a mix of online and face-to-face instruction — so that all kids could be accommodated while still following safety protocols. I dreamed of the day they would all be in school simultaneously, even if it was for but a mere few hours. I was going to make bed angels, take a long, steaming, hot, uninterrupted shower, and eat a delicious breakfast with none of my kids in my face. It was going to be glorious.

And then, the proposed hybrid school schedules began to roll in, and it quickly became apparent that my dream was not meant to be. I knew juggling four kids in three different schools was going to be a challenge, but never did I imagine that it may be the thing to break me after surviving a year of no school. And there is most likely someone reading this thinking I am being a bit dramatic, but I have never been the dramatic kind of mom.

Two of my kids are in public schools: one in his last year of middle school and one in a specialized PreK program for language development. And the middle two attend a Spanish immersion public charter school. And my husband and I have been juggling driving to three different schools for about a year without incident before the disaster of this school year. There was no situation that we imagined we couldn’t handle.

Until now.

My youngest child’s schedule is Tuesday through Friday and every other Monday from 8 am to 11 am. My first-grader will go Tuesday through Friday from 8:15 am to 3:15 pm every two weeks. The fourth-grader will have the same schedule as my first-grader, but not on the same weeks. And my 8th grader will go Wednesday, Friday, and every other Monday from 7:55 am to 3:05 pm. And just to sum up this logistical nightmare, there is not one day when all of them will be in school at the same time. And in case you are wondering, yes, I am a sobbing, hot mess ball of anxiety.

Distant education, online class meeting. Pretty schoolgirl in formal shirt but in pajama trousers studying during online lesson at home, social distance during quarantine, self-isolation

Getty Images/iStockphoto

You may be saying that I am the nut who set myself up for this by sending my kids to different schools. And I assure you that was never my plan. But even if it was my plan, there is no fortune teller alive that could have predicted this predicament. Yes, keeping them all in virtual school would probably save my sanity. But I feel torn between prioritizing my sanity or theirs.

I don’t have the heart to tell my 8th grader he won’t see his friends before heading to high school. My language delayed four-year-old needs to be in the classroom. My six-year-old social butterfly asks every day when she can see her friends, and staying engaged in virtual school has been a real struggle for my very active 10-year-old.

I am not here to whine about how unfair this is. Many parents are caught in this scheduling nightmare, and I know that I am lucky to even have the choice. There are parents stuck with a much more challenging situation than mine. Many parents have gone back to work and are struggling to find childcare, and these hybrid school schedules make it logistically impossible to send their kids back to in-person school.

Stephanie Hazzard is a divorced mom of 3, therapist, and franchise owner of We Rock The Spectrum in Redondo Beach, CA. She has a kid in elementary school, middle school, and high school. She explained to me, “There is no way I can take all three of my kids to school, make it to work, and get back in time to pick all of them up. As much as I want to send my kids back to school, it’s not even an option for me.”

Most schools are doing their best to get kids back in the classroom while doing all that they can to ensure their safety. And hybrid schedules were intended to lessen interactions between students, teachers, school staff, and beyond. However, this has proven to be untrue. With students not in school, parents have had to send kids to daycare, camps, and pods, exposing them to several different people and increasing their risk of contracting Covid. Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, shared with, “The hybrid model only works if students stay home, alone, during all of that time they are out of school, which is strangely unrealistic.”

The schedule is just one of many problems the hybrid model presents. Implementation of safety protocols is costly, continuity of instruction is an issue, and having enough teachers and staff to handle multiple cohorts of students is challenging. Not to mention the toll this is taking on teachers as they struggle to balance teaching multiple cohorts a day and even simultaneously teaching in-person and virtual school.

I truly hoped that my kids would be back to school this spring, for both their sake and mine. But I just don’t know if it is worth it. Hybrid school schedules are turning out to be one of those things that sounds great in theory, but in practice, it is simply a logistical nightmare for parents, students, teachers, and schools alike.

There is no perfect solution that will serve everyone’s needs. So all we can do is be patient, follow local health guidelines, and hope and pray that we will return to some form of normalcy by the next school year.

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