CHPS continues through second quarter with modified hybrid model


Photo by Eli Zinser

Students pick up their materials needed for Heights at Home Quarter 2 at the November 7 material pickup.

During the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the more difficult problems regarding safety arose in the summer months prior to the 2020-2021 school year. Although most cities in Minnesota are in either a full distance learning or hybrid model, Columbia Heights Public Schools (CHPS) have come up with a clever way to make sure everyone gets the education they need while being safe.

The modified hybrid model is a slight variation on the full distance learning model. For the majority of students, there won’t be any need to enter the building at any point during the school year, but this is where the “modified” piece comes in. All CHPS students with special needs, first and second year English Language Learners and seniors in danger of not graduating have the option to receive in-person learning 1-2 days a week and do distance learning the remaining days of the week. This model lies in between full distance learning, or “Heights at Home” as the district has dubbed it, where all students attend virtual classes the entire year, and a full hybrid where half of the students are in-person one day and the other half are in-person the next day. It also starkly contrasts the full in-person learning model, where all students would be on-site every day.

This model ensures that students who need face-to-face learning obtain the material they need and get an education equal to full in-person learning while keeping everybody safe. On any given day, there are about 30 students at CHHS, as well as a small handful of staff that choose to work and hold their Zoom meetings in the building from their classrooms. 

“I find it healthier to come to the school rather than working at home,” CHHS math teacher Mr. Daniel Honigs said. “When I stayed at home last spring I gained more weight and my health suffered. I also need that socialization with others who work in the building to maintain my mental health.”

Due to the sudden arrival of the pandemic in March,  grade 11 students missed out on the opportunity to take the SAT exam originally scheduled to be taken in the spring. However, the now-seniors were given the choice to take the exam for free on October 14, with scores being released on November 4. Along with this, most four-year colleges in the state have waived the requirement to submit an SAT or ACT score, stating that students can still submit a score if they feel as though it will enhance their application.

As the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year is set to end on Nov. 11, the CHPS School Board came together to discuss what model would be set in place for Quarter Two. During the board’s October 27 meeting, members voted to continue with the modified hybrid model through January 28, 2021. Throughout the second quarter of the school year, statistics will continue to be monitored and toward the end of the second quarter, the school board will meet again to determine a learning model for Quarter Three.

“Decision-making during this pandemic involves many moving parts,” Columbia Heights Superintendent Zena Stenvik said. “We established a District COVID-19 Coordinator who tracks daily case rates in Anoka and Hennepin county, as well as Columbia Heights and Hilltop more specifically. We also conduct district-wide surveys and meet with representatives from different staff groups.”

With cases on the rise in many states including Minnesota, it’s important to continue following safety guidelines such as mask-wearing, washing hands, and social distancing. Although the probability of schools returning to a full hybrid or in-person model this year is low, the continued use of those guidelines will only increase the chance of being able to use those models in the coming school years.