Hybrid Learning May Be More Dangerous Than In-Person Classes, Experts Warn

A mix of in-person and remote learning in schools could raise the risk of catching COVID-19 outside of the classroom, according to experts

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Infectious disease experts are warning that hybrid learning models being considered by school districts for reopening in the fall could pose a public health disaster, according to the Boston Globe.

Often referred to as hybrid, "hopscotch" or "blended" learning, the model involves alternating schedules for students between coming into a school building for in-person instruction and remote instruction.

The model could raise the risk of catching COVID-19 outside of the classroom, experts told the Boston Globe, because many parents would have to send children to day care centers or bring in babysitters as they return to work, increasing their exposure and risk of transmission.

The state's education department directed school districts to prepare plans for three different reopening models: in-person, remote or a mix of the two. At least 31 districts in Massachusetts have opted for online-only, while others have decided against on a hybrid version.

Epidemiologists argue that under a remote plan, students' exposure, or expanded network, is largely limited to the people in their households, the Globe reports. An in-person learning plan would limit students to a consistent group of children and school employees, according to the experts, while a hybrid model would widen that circle.

Up to 30% of the country is expected to try the hybrid model, the Globe reports, citing EdWeek, a publication covering K-12 education.

Boston Public Schools plans to delay the start of classes until Sept. 21. Meanwhile, Worcester, Salem, Brookline and Lawrence public school students learned Thursday they will start remotely; Boston's hasn't announced a decision on whether students will start the year in class.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that, despite a recent uptick in coronavirus cases, he remains hopeful there will be at least some in-person learning this year. The Boston School Committee decided to move back the start date of its school year to Sept. 21 Thursday as officials continue to weigh online learning against a hybrid model.

The Boston Teachers Union has been calling for a remote-only start to the school year and held a rally in front of the State House Thursday for the cause, while some parents push for schools to reopen full-time.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts may have lost more than a quarter of the available space at child care centers, complicating life for parents at a time when school districts are still deliberating whether to bring students back to the classroom this fall.

And as kids get ready to return to school, a recent report found that nearly 12,000 children across New England were diagnosed with the coronavirus through July 30.

Massachusetts had the bulk of the childhood COVID cases, with 6,903, followed by Connecticut at 2,497 and Rhode Island with 1,616. New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont had fewer than 1,000 childhood coronavirus cases combined, according to the report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.

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