Back to School: Cleveland Students and Staff Prepare for Hybrid Learning


Clarion photo Cleveland High School Photo

Cleveland students gathered to welcome the newest class of 2025

By Lena Tinker and Graham Jones

As many Cleveland students are preparing for in-person hybrid learning to begin tomorrow, many others are ready for another week of the same distance learning that has challenged educators, students, and families alike over the past year. 

Tomorrow, Monday the 19th, marks the day when Portland Public high school students can once again walk through the (school-sanctioned) entrance to the hallowed halls of Cleveland. One such student is senior Adley Schwartz, who when asked why he wanted to return to school said, “Firstly I want to see people! It’s my last year and being able to return to school feels like good closure.”

Many seniors share Schwartz’s desire to find closure in the final months of their high school career. Despite the seniors distinctive experience, the excitement to see classmates cannot be limited to just one grade level. Freshman Alice Bokman, who has not yet been able to meet her new classmates in person, said, “I am most excited to meet new people and get a more hands-on learning when entering hybrid.” 

But being able to see old friends and, for some, meet new ones, is not the only thing drawing people back to Cleveland. Bokman said, “We’ve already lost so much to the pandemic, and I want to take advantage and spend as much time in my school as possible. Having immediate teacher and peer assistance is also an appeal, and I feel hybrid will benefit my learning in general.”

Distance learning has been challenging for so many. One student says, “My experience in distance learning has been pretty negative. My teachers, peers, and classes have all been wonderful, but motivation and mental health have been a struggle.”

They are not alone. Maddie Easlon says, “CDL [Comprehensive Distance Learning] has been really stressful and also super hard. I hate it but I also understand that it’s for the best.”

On a school-based level, learning has been more challenging. Schwartz said, “Distance learning has been okay for me. The hardest part has been the lack of conversational support. Normally I would have a chance to talk to me teachers. This has been especially hard with IB and college essays.”

While Junior Simone Guite recognizes that this year has been a struggle for many, she has been fortunate in being able to find joy in managing her own schedule in distance learning. “What has helped me a lot this year is having balance between school work and doing things I enjoy.” This joy in turn has given her the motivation she has needed throughout the year. 

Guite will not be returning to Cleveland for hybrid instruction like Schwartz, Bokman, and Easlon. While Guite is looking forward to continuing the time in asynchronous instruction, working on her fourth quilt in spare moments between classes, she has one concern about spending the rest of her year in CDL: the new hybrid schedule. This schedule impacts all students, not just those returning to school, for asynchronous classes. 

“I feel like having each class async [asynchronous] every two weeks is going to be an adjustment. Considering we only have about a month and a half left in school, by the time we get used to the new schedule school is going to be pretty much over,” said Guite.

The worries for those choosing to attend hybrid learning are a little different. “My main concerns about going back to school are health related. Though numerous precautions are in place, we don’t choose the timeline for the pandemic and anything could happen,” said Bokman.

Echoing this health related worry, Schwartz says, “I actually was leaning towards saying no to returning in person until scheduling my vaccine. So, it [getting the vaccine] definitely has impacted my decision. I don’t want to get sick and I think it will decrease the risk to my family as well.”

Easlon has the same concerns, while also noting a positive side, “I believe it will be good for students and faculty members to be back in school and I think it will help with grades, but then there’s the other side which is the possibility of COVID cases going up which I do believe will happen.” 

All students faced challenges with the distance learning system, and the first semester of distance learning was a struggle for teachers as well. 

Though they had dipped their toes into the strange world of zoom classes and online assignments at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, the district’s standards for the new year made distance learning essentially a whole new experience for the teachers. After working hard to craft and teach their online classes, most educators still found themselves being unable to teach the same amount of curriculum as a normal school year. 

For example, English and Digital Media teacher Mrs. Hughes said she was only able to cover “40-50%” of what she would have taught in a typical semester. Math teacher Mr. Running claimed he was able to cover the same amount of curriculum as usual but that the biggest change was “the depth of the material.” 

Running explained, “With distance learning, students are reluctant to ask questions during synchronous times and I don’t have the benefit of seeing body language and facial expressions that help me evaluate how well students are picking up on topics.  So, we’re able to complete tasks, but are they truly understood?” 

This seems to be a sentiment many teachers hold when speaking on the issues of distance learning. The return to some level of in-person instruction will be extremely impactful for school teachers, staff, and students statewide.

Tomorrow, the doors to Cleveland invite students in with open arms… as long as they’re wearing a mask.