Hybrid Learning at Calhoun: Finding Flexibility

When schools nationwide shifted to hybrid learning, many presented two options for families — either your child learned remotely as part of an entirely virtual class, or they learned in-person as part of a class that was entirely physically present at school. While this approach is simpler in some ways for the school, Calhoun's planning team realized that it wasn’t necessarily what would best serve families.

“With so much uncertainty around what the year would look like, our concern was that the decisions families made in August wouldn't necessarily be what they’d choose later in the school year,” says Steve Solnick, Head of School.

US teacher teaching hybrid learning class

Instead, Calhoun designed a hybrid model that offers families a wide range of options. Calhoun’s schedule is structured so that students in pre-K through sixth grade attend school five days a week, and students in grades seventh and above alternate between in-person and remote learning.

However, families can opt to remain fully remote, or switch between hybrid and remote at any point in the year. Furthermore, unlike typical hybrid models, any class has the capacity to include both in-person and remote students.

Calhoun’s hybrid model gives families the flexibility to make choices based on potentially shifting circumstances over the course of the pandemic, and in doing so, meets students and families where they are. “We are taking into account all of the circumstances that families bring to the table, which speaks to the individualized nature of what we do and is an extension of who we are as a whole-child institution,” says Eric Osorio, Associate Head of School for Teaching and Learning.

Another driving factor in Calhoun’s decision-making was an understanding of the equity issues at stake. “We know that this virus has impacted some folks in our community in a disproportionate fashion, and our flexibility allows us to take that into consideration,” Eric says. “Some communities, particularly communities of color, have been hit especially hard, and are more nervous about coming to school,” Steve adds. “We wanted to take that out of the equation and define our classroom groups independent of a family’s comfort with coming to school.”

The flexibility of Calhoun’s hybrid approach has the distinct advantage of keeping class groups together throughout the year. This consistency not only maintains a strong network of support for students during an otherwise difficult year, but preserves the strong student-teacher relationships that are the foundation for robust learning and growth. “We wanted to create the constancy of teachers seeing the same students on a regular basis, whether in person or on screen, so that we'd continue to have the [student-teacher] connection that is fundamental to what we do,” Steve says. “Our ability to get kids excited about learning comes from our understanding of them, and we didn't want to compromise that by bouncing kids between different groups.”

Staying nimble and responsive to student and family needs has meant that even though the physical layout of school is different, the depth and dynamism of a Calhoun education have remained intact. “Students are receiving the same level of instruction. Do they miss sitting and having lunch with their friends? Yes, that's the part that we can't replicate [with hybrid learning],” reflects Julie Torres, Academic Dean for Grades 6-12. “But the learning and growing together— we have still been able to maintain all of that.”