(Photo by Wokandapix/Pixabay)

A plan to move ahead with getting students back into the classroom two days a week starting on Jan. 11 was approved Monday by the Mount Diablo Unified School District board.

The hybrid plan, as proposed by district Superintendent Dr. Adam Clark and approved by a 5-0 board vote, would have kindergarteners, first-graders, sixth-graders and ninth-graders do their first in-class learning on Jan. 11; second-, third-, seventh- and 10th graders on Jan. 19; and fourth-, fifth-, eighth-, 11th and 12th-graders on Jan. 25.

Families that want to opt out of face-to-face learning could continue with distance learning.

Clark said many details have yet to be worked out. Some of them, he said, will depend on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic. While infections in California are currently holding steady, many parts of the U.S. are seeing spikes. The district also will need the results of surveys that parents and teachers will be asked to fill out in mid-November.

“We can’t move forward until we know how many are coming back (to the classroom), and where,” Clark told the board Monday night.

Another challenge is that agreements with school district labor groups, most notably teachers, have yet to be reached as to how, or when, they will return to in-person classroom learning.

Evan White, a physics teacher in the district, asked the board to hold off on any return to in-person teaching until it’s safe for students to return full-time.

The ranks of teachers leaving the district or the teaching profession have swollen with the COVID-19 pandemic, White said, and the ongoing teacher shortage will likely accelerate if in-person teaching resumes sooner rather than later.

“Moving to a hybrid model while the infection rate is at an all-time high is reckless, and leaves the door open to too much uncertainty,” White said.

Most parents who called in to the board meeting took a different tack, saying their kids were suffering under distance learning, both academically and socially.

Doug Novotny, a psychologist and Mt. Diablo parent, said distance learning isn’t good for kids, especially the youngest ones. He called it “disaster learning.”

“A hybrid plan is, in some ways, the worst of both worlds,” Novotny said.

A couple of parents suggested live-streaming of in-person classes to students whose families opted for learning from home; Clark said managing two separate audiences simultaneously would be a “Herculean task” for any teacher. In any event, Clark said, easing high school students back will probably be more complicated than with younger students.

Board member Linda Mayo said the district is at a turning point, and that families need options.

“We know we have to be flexible,” she said. “Our families are tired, I think, and they’re looking for different choices.”

The Mt. Diablo Unified School District operates schools in Concord, Pleasant Hill, Clayton, Bay Point and parts of Walnut Creek, Martinez and Pittsburg.