Will Garland is taking all his classes online this fall for COVID-19 safety reasons, like so many students across the country. But the eighth grader’s lessons at Cleveland’s Urban Community School aren’t exactly remote.

He’s still coming to school every day to take his online classes, in-person and with his classmates.

While most of the education world agonizes over whether students should take classes online or at school, this private urban Christian school is letting its older students do both at the same time.

The result is an unusual form of hybrid learning that resembles the remote learning centers that have started in Cleveland and other cities and one that allows students to see classmates in a controlled setting, while also allowing teachers to stay home.

It also allows Urban Community School to bring back as many students as possible to classrooms every day, while limiting COVID-19 danger. That was a priority for the school, which has high levels of poverty and families without reliable child care at home.

“We think the health risks to a lot of our kids at home really needed to be considered,” said Tom Gill, the school’s president. Roughly two-thirds of the school’s 560 kindergarten through eighth grade students are coming to school every day.

“Our families need somewhere to go,” Gill said, even though having kids at school adds health risks. “And we were really pushing to get kids in the building because we want to get eyes on kids. We were really concerned.”

On a typical day, Garland and his classmates sit several feet apart in a large meeting room, with foldable “shields” in front of them to contain breath and any possible infection.

There’s no teacher in the room and there are no lessons being taught here. The teachers are all at home, teaching via webcam. Garland and his classmates take their classes on their laptops, just like other students are doing from home.

Garland said he could have stayed at home to do his lessons, but chose to come to school “rather than be at home in my room” to be around other students and to be able to talk, masked, about what they are learning.

Read the full article about hybrid learning by Patrick O' Donnell at The 74.