Sixth-graders at three middle schools in the Carlsbad Unified School District returned to campus for in-person instruction Tuesday, with a hybrid model and longer class times.
Before the pandemic, each class lasted 50 minutes, then students would move to the next class for the next 50 minutes. They would have five to six periods a day.
Now, though, classes are longer -- 90 minutes -- so students change classes less frequently.
“Switching to a block schedule reduced that so teachers could see two to three groups of students each day,” said Rose Flowers, the principal of Aviara Oaks Middle School.
“They were fifth-graders in March, so they now have matriculated to middle school, and it’s the first time at a new school,” said Carlsbad Unified superintendent Ben Churchill.
Some sixth-graders in other districts are part of the elementary school systems that are TK-6, so they went back to campus when elementary schools opened.
Carlsbad Unified, however, is TK-5, making sixth grade part of middle school, so the district was waiting for upper schools to go back. Churchill said the district had hoped to bring seventh- and eighth-graders back on campus this week along with the sixth-graders, but the state denied a waiver that would have allowed that.
Now, Churchill said, the district likely will have to wait for the county to move to the red tier and stay there for two weeks before upper classes can join the sixth-graders for in-person instruction.
“There's still a good chunk of the school year, and we think any time we can have our kids on campus is better than no time at all,” said Churchill, who said high school seniors want to get back to campus even if only for a short time. “They’ve been asking us, 'Please let us go back.' We’ve been ready since Jan. 25 to welcome students back. We’re just really hoping to be given the opportunity here in the next two weeks.”
In the meantime, sixth-graders are getting a reprieve.
"You can pretend it's not COVID,” said one student, quickly adding, “other than wearing a mask.”
The district continues to offer distance learning to students who do not want to return to campus. Churchill said attendance for the first day back for sixth-graders, including all three middle schools, was 95%.