Santa Fe Public Schools is making adjustments to its class schedule after some students and educators struggled with the remote learning model during the first quarter of the school year.
Middle and high schools will move to a modified block schedule once the second semester begins in January, district Superintendent Veronica García said Friday.
Students will have two days in which they attend three classes and two days with four classes. They also will have almost two hours of independent study time.
The schedule applies to Ortiz and Milagro middle schools, Desert Sage Academy, Mandela International Magnet School as well as Capital and Santa Fe high schools.
Students, teachers and parents complained about fatigue from lectures and the amount of assignments they faced during the week, García said.
“We think that perhaps what we’re seeing in kids disengaging and grades going down is that teachers and students are becoming exhausted with the remote learning model as we have it,” García said.
The district developed the current schedule with the intention that secondary students would return to the classroom twice a week in a hybrid learning model, Assistant Superintendent Larry Chavez said.
But the state Public Education Department only allowed elementary school students to resume in-person learning.
The district began a modified hybrid learning model Oct. 26, but suspended it Friday because of a recent increase in COVID-19 cases.
Chavez said the schedule overburdened students and teachers in the hybrid model, to the point where students sometimes had 10 to 12 assignments per week.
“We don’t want the teachers and the students to be exhausted from having to attend or teach seven classes a day,” Chavez said. “We want to make sure we are making a conscious effort of trying to meet the needs of our students and teachers.”
The decision comes on the heels of a district report in which 38 percent of students between third and 12th grade failed at least one class or subject in the first quarter of this school year. The rate rose to 51.6 percent for seventh graders on up, with 64 percent of freshmen earning an F.
During a meeting with the Interfaith Coalition for Public Education on Wednesday, Deputy Superintendent Linda Sink said part of the failure rate might have stemmed from instructors issuing grades on so many assignments.
“What we are going to do is reinforce the idea that when we teach a concept, we teach it through activities and engagement activities,” Sink said. “But you don’t have to grade all of those activities. It’s like having somebody practicing piano and giving them a grade of ‘F’ if they didn’t do so well that day on that particular piece.”
The district also will address camera use by students. Its policy permits students to keep their cameras off during instruction to protect a family’s privacy. However, the online classroom platform the district is using now provides virtual backgrounds to avoid that issue.
Chavez said parents can still request cameras be kept off, but will have to fill out a form to do it.
Teachers sometimes couldn’t tell if students were involved in instruction or simply not at their computers, García said.
“We recognize the need for privacy, but I think in honoring that, we also saw more disengagement,” García said. “The teacher can’t read a student’s face. We can’t see if they’re engaged or if they are taking a nap during class or texting. Having the kids with the camera on, you get a better sense of the level of engagement.”