CB West Returns in Hybrid, is this Okay?

West Community Offers some Thoughts


Twitter @CBWestHS

Students are Welcomed into school for Hybrid Classes with decorations from the CB West Faculty

Ryan Keating

As you’re reading this article, West students have already begun returning to school through the hybrid model. However, since the district announced students would be coming back in October, I and many others were curious to see what people’s thoughts about this big step were. I interviewed 2 West teachers – Mr. Meo and Mrs. Semisch – and 3 West students to find out, and they offered a lot of insight into what people at West are focused on as students are returning.    

*A few brief disclosures: some of the quotes have been edited for brevity/clarity. Any of my notes will be in italics. Student names will remain confidential, for their privacy. The three I interviewed will be labeled A, B, and C. Where there is a consensus, I won’t include every interviewee’s thoughts – just enough to represent each perspective adequately. Now, from here, I’ll go in the order of the interview questions. See if you notice any common themes.


  • How much of a surprise was the news that students would be returning in-person on October 1st?

Mr. Meo: “I was definitely a little bit surprised, but at the same time, I was excited… I’m looking forward to seeing people, but there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Student A: “It was a pretty big surprise – about as big as it could be. I knew we were coming back at some time, but not this early.” 

Student B: “It was a big surprise, because in March, there were barely any COVID cases, but we got cancelled. But somehow, now that there’s a lot, we’re going back to school. I don’t see the logic in it.”

Student C: “I was pretty surprised. I was pretty hyped about it, because I didn’t want to do hybrid in the first place – I just wanted to go back. If anything, I thought they’d push it back – I didn’t expect them to make it earlier.” 


  • When did you expect students would be returning to school in person?

Mr. Meo: “I thought we were going to be back November 11th, the start of marking period 2.” As you likely remember, this was the original date the district planned to begin the hybrid model.

Student A: “Probably December or January, honestly. November at the earliest.”

Student B: “It was very rushed –even teachers didn’t know about it. I expected it to be around January… because the vaccine is probably out by then, cases are down, but not in September when… COVID cases are still rising.”


  • How comfortable are you with students returning for in-person learning?

Mr. Meo: “I personally am very comfortable… I think what I’m less comfortable about is me falling into complacency and not doing the right thing – I think I have to constantly remind myself ‘six feet’ – and when we come back in, people are going to get very comfortable very quickly. We saw that in society.”

Student A: “Not too comfortable – I trust that most people will wear their masks, but I feel like some students, by pure virtue of being teenagers, won’t wear their masks or will forget, and that’s really all it takes.”

Student C: “I’m pretty comfortable with it. I believe that the school is going to take safety measures, and that people will be wearing masks. I want to see everybody, so I’m pretty comfortable with going back in.”

We’ll get used to it – it’s going to become a way of life. On paper, it looks a little stressful, but it’ll work itself out.

— Mr. Meo


  • Do you know what types of measures are in place to make returning in-person possible? 

Mr. Meo: “Every school in the state of Pennsylvania was required to put together a School Health & Safety Plan. Do I know that playbook by heart? Absolutely not. But as I interact with my classroom, I’m trying to do all the right things, and all those things are written into that plan.”

Student A: “I know there’s only one student per table, we have to wear masks at all times, obviously; we can’t eat or drink in school. That’s really all I know about it, but it seems reasonable.”

Student B: “Social distancing, number one. There should be a limit on people in the hallways. I know the transitioning between class to class is going to be a bunch of kids… They should probably space it out in sections, even if that might cost some time.”


  • What types of measures (or ideally, what measures) would you like to see in place as we return in-person?

Mrs. Semisch: “I don’t know that there’s anything that they’re not doing that would help. I think it’s the decision to bring everyone back that’s the question.”

Student A: “Honestly, I’d rather we didn’t. It would probably be safest. But if we had to return to school, I think the school has done a pretty good job of it. I’m sure they are, but I’d like to see them disinfecting everything before we use it. I guess, maybe gloves could be provided… just in case, because I’ve heard coronavirus is a little more [likely] to stay on objects you touch.”

Student B: “Those desk shields would be nice, but it would feel like you were in prison.”

Student C: “Hallways are going to be a problem – they said they were going to do the whole one-way system; I guess that’s fine. I think they should limit the amount of people in the hallways, since it gets pretty crowded.” 


  • How do you feel about the revised schedule, which has 80-minute blocks and ends at 1:30?

Mr. Meo: “I feel like it’s a little condensed. I feel like 4 minutes between each block is going to create stress… it’s going to be like a sprint going through the whole day. We’ll get used to it – it’s going to become a way of life. On paper, it looks a little stressful, but it’ll work itself out.”

Mrs. Semisch: I think that we’re going to have to try it, and that we may have to revise it… I think that most teachers are asking [questions] like ‘How are we going to clean the desks in the 4 minutes between classes?’ People are making decisions that are very, very necessary on their ends… but practically speaking, we don’t know how things are going to fly.”

Student A: “I do like the ending earlier, because it means I have a little more free time in between school and when I have to go to volunteering… I did like having breaks in between blocks when we had online school – that was good, and I will kinda miss that.”

Student C: “I don’t like how we don’t have any breaks – it goes first block, second block, break, third block, fourth block. It’s just a lot back-to-back. I liked Office Hours and Advisory. Especially with online learning, you’re just going to be sitting there 160 minutes at a time.” 


  • Why did you choose hybrid/in-person/virtual learning? (for students)

Student A: “I chose hybrid… because at the time, I wanted to go back to school and see my friends again, and I also thought since last year… to be fully blunt, the online learning was sort of a mess, and I didn’t really learn anything.” 

Student B: “I chose hybrid because initially, I thought we were going to go to school later. I just had this idea it would be January when they said hybrid kids could come back. Now I regret it, and I can’t change it because of my family members – my sibling is going back to school too.”

Student C: “Hybrid, because I’m not too concerned with [lacking] safety precautions. I think they’re going to do a good job, and I want to see everybody and say hi.”


  • If you were a high schooler in our situation, do you think you would have chosen hybrid or virtual learning? (for teachers)

Mr. Meo: “I would’ve went hybrid – I’m a social bee. I was never at home during high school – I was always out doing something. I just couldn’t sit still. I’d be begging for five days a week, let alone two days for hybrid.”

Mrs. Semisch: “I’m sure it would depend on how much I missed my friends. When I was in high school, I wasn’t weighing risks, I was following my heart – I don’t think any of us are very good at weighing risks, that we all want to follow our hearts. I hope students know how much we feel for them, and that in all of this it can be difficult for them to remember that every adult in this larger community wants what’s best for them, and that… everyone’s making decisions based on what’s best for them.”


  • When do you expect we’ll return to fully in-person?

Mr. Meo: “Obviously, I would be optimistic, and hope before the end of this school year, but there’s too many moving parts that don’t deal with us – things that we can’t control might impact us having to stay out [of school] for longer. So I hope that we are back by the end of this school year, but I honestly don’t know.”

Mrs. Semisch: “I don’t know. It all depends on what the virus does. If we get a surge… then things will change, and we’ll go all virtual again for a bit. If we bring people back hybrid and everything goes smoothly, maybe they’ll bring back students full-time. I think it’s responsible for it to be based on how the hybrid system goes.”

Student A: “Honestly, we probably shouldn’t return to fully in-person until, at the very earliest, May. It’s probably just safest to wait until next [school] year, but if you want to start this year, then May [is likely] safe.”

Student B: “I really don’t think we are going to be returning. Because of this whole ‘returning back to school’ [obsession], there are going to be COVID cases, and [schools] are going to shut down. It’s just going to be this repetitive cycle…”

Student C: “I think, if we do, it’ll probably be at the start of the 4th marking period, since they’ll want to do it around some landmark date. I think they’re going to want to do graduation normally, and prom.”


Because of this whole ‘returning back to school’ [obsession], there are going to be COVID cases, and [schools] are going to shut down. It’s just going to be this repetitive cycle…

— Student B


Any parting thoughts?

Mrs. Semisch: “Something I told my seniors last spring, and what I would love for all students to know, is that more than one thing can be true at a time. They were in March of their senior year, and it was so disappointing for them… But they also felt guilty, because people were dying, and it felt wrong to them to be sad about what they were missing out on, when other people had things so much worse. And the fact that other people have it worse, and they do, does not mean that you are not disappointed – in some cases crushed – by the loss of things that were really important to you. And the adults that care about you know that… I think what is beneficial is to say that we care about each other and we want to get to the other side of this. One day we will.

But two hundred thousand people… when we get tempted to treat it cavalierly, we have to remember that. This is very serious.” 


I was surprised by how many recurring thoughts arose during these interviews. As expected, there was a fair amount of uncertainty. What was not expected was the shared concern between teachers and students over how practical the hybrid model schedule is. Students and teachers alike were concerned about crowded hallways, calling to mind images of overcrowded hallways that circulated earlier this year, which came to epitomize school districts overeager to return. 

However, CBSD and the principal’s office have assuaged some of these concerns by assuring us that masks will be worn, and social distancing maintained, as per the 75-page Health and Safety Plan that has been filed with and approved by the state. The measures discussed are in line with what the interviewees generally hoped for and expected to prevent the spread of germs, but not all of those interviewed were confident that these rules would be followed, or that they were adequate.

The other critique of the schedule was for its tightness – while all the students appreciated getting out earlier in the day, which is intended to accommodate grab-and-go lunches, they and teachers alike were concerned about passing periods and breaks. Four minutes between classes doesn’t offer students much time to get between classes while socially distancing in the hallways, nor does it give a large window for teachers to sanitize their rooms. However, much like the timeline for students returning, these measures are subject to change.  

Ultimately, not even the students interviewed anticipate or favor a full return before May. However, it’s important to mention again how much uncertainty we still face. At the time of writing, the hybrid model, and the revised schedule with it, have barely begun. May is a long way away. However, in the coming days, we’ll see how these changes play out at West and across the district. They may require revisions of their own. While not everyone is interested in returning in-person yet, we certainly wish the best to those opting in and extend a huge thank you to all the CB employees making it possible.