Students at Northwestern Middle and High schools will double their in-person school days starting Oct. 5.

The Maple School Board voted 5-2 during its Monday, Sept. 21 meeting to change its hybrid schedule for students in grades 6-12 and offer in-school instruction four days a week: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, from Oct. 5 to the end of the first quarter, Nov. 4. The grades started the school year attending in-person classes two days a week in separate cohorts, with virtual learning the other three.

A recent survey of parents showed they preferred a return to five-day weeks for all students, but District Administrator Sara Croney said four days a week was the best the district could do for students in grades 6-12.

On Wednesdays, teachers at Northwestern Middle and High schools will offer open office hours and be available for questions from online students for half of each block.

Croney said learning would continue for all students Wednesdays, but “It is a time for our teachers to have time — badly needed time — to connect with our online students.”

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Elementary students in the district have been attending class in person five days a week since school opened. As part of the motion approved Sept. 21, the district will hire three half-time teachers to take over grading and communication with online students at the elementary level.

Board members agreed it was a tough decision.

Brian Johnson argued it was unfair to treat the elementary and secondary school teachers differently.

COVID-19 is still out there, Gail Saari said, and she is concerned about bringing the secondary students back four days a week.

Masks would continue to be required, which Danna Livingston-Matherly said was a key safety component.

The hybrid schedule can be revisited in November at the end of the quarter, Croney said.

All Maple students have the option to enroll in online-only education. Board members were informed that roughly 20% of the district's 420 high school students, 15% of district's 323 middle school students and 15% of the 588 elementary students have opted for virtual schooling.

The motion included hiring a full-time teacher for sixth grade due to the large class size. A recording of the meeting is available on the district's Facebook page.

This story was updated at 12:08 p.m. with information about the numbers of virtual students in the Maple School District. It was originally posted at 11:34 a.m.