TUCSON, Ariz. — We're now getting a first look at hybrid learning at Lauffer Middle School in the Sunnyside district. About half the students returned to the campuses this past Monday.
KGUN9 entered a classroom of 6th graders in their first week of hybrid learning. There are only a handful of students, the rest of their classmates are seen in small boxes on the digital screens.
Their teacher in this classroom is Priscilla Switzer and she's so glad to finally be with at least some of her students.
"It was really different not having kids in person," she said.
Also different are the plexiglass partitions on desks designed for multiple students.
Switzer describes the students' reaction on their first day. "They sat down waiting for you to tell them that it's okay that's your space", she said, "I started asking them, are you guys scared, are you excited, and you see hands -- yes, no. They're looking around the room and there's so much empty space. That's not normal for them."
What's also not normal, she said, how much her students miss school.
She's been teaching the same grade for 11 years and has never seen anything like this. "I ask them like, 'Wow, what do you miss about school' and the kids say I didn't realize being there, the opportunities, the listening, the sharing, the ideas, the projects I hear it everyday. Oh I miss doing this, I miss lunch, I miss waving at people the simplest things they miss. They miss it," she said.
The principal, John Bellisario, sees it too.
"If you had ask the kids at this time last year, they would say, oh we wish we could stay home we're tired of school. But they're not, They're really excited to be back here. They're happy being back in school," said Bellisario.
But are these middle schoolers happy enough to follow all the safety rules, like when they're moving to their next classes?
"That has not been an issue at all. Every student has warn their mask. Every students has kept their distances. They've done everything they need to do," said the principal.
Switzer said they've done everything they need to and more.
The biggest surprise is watching her students now taking control of their own education.
"This year's group, they really enjoy learning and expressing themselves," she said.
Lauffer Middle School has about 500 students. Half of them, 250, are hybrid learning, but not every day.
Each day only 125 students are on campus, except on Wednesdays when all students are remote learning.