Middle College classes continue in person

The Monroe County Middle College semester started Sept. 8, with all high school courses still being available in-person.

(From left) Hosea Duran, Allen Swaile and Camden Mullen, first year MCMC students, talk during a lunch period in between classes. (Photos by Jerry Meade)

Robert Krueger, MCMC principal, said students were given three different options on how to take classes this semester.

One option was taking classes fully virtual from Edgenuity, a third-party vendor separate from the school.

The others included classes fully virtual through MCMC teachers or attending hybrid classes that meet half online and half in-person.

Krueger said around 15 students each took the virtual options, but the majority desired to be hybrid in some way.

On campus, students have been split up evenly into two groups.

Group A meets on campus Monday and Tuesday, continuing classes online for the rest of the week, while Group B meets Thursday and Friday. Each week, the groups alternate having in-person classes on Wednesdays.

Each group consists of students from years 1 (ninth grade) through 4 (twelfth grade).

Year 5 students are not included in these groups because their class schedules don’t consist of any high school classes.

Autumn Molnar, a fifth year MCMC English Major, said that despite not taking any high school classes, she is still involved with the Middle College through updates and announcements through the college’s Schoology tool.

As a fifth year, Molnar can still attend MCMC events in hopes that certain ones, like homecoming, still happen in the winter semester.

“I just hope we get it because all my friends already got dresses and still have our tickets and everything,” Molnar said.

Currently using 10 different classrooms in four different campus buildings, face-to-face classes are at 50 percent capacity or less, Krueger said.

“We’re hopeful that we can get a little bit more permanent space here in the basement of the library, so that way we can keep our ninth and tenth graders a little bit closer to home, so to speak,” Kruger said.

Along with limited capacity, face masks are required in classes, and many staff members have glass partitions between them and the students.

Krueger said the MCMC needs to follow the COVID-19 response plan put out by MCCC as well as certain K-12 requirements.

Students also are required to disinfect their seats before and after classes start.

When walking throughout campus, students follow signs pointing them to travel in specific directions. Traffic is also limited by only using the doors the college had in place to be unlocked.

On days students aren’t on campus, their classes are attended through Zoom meetings.

These meetings consist of both virtual and hybrid students.

With the extent of changes for all schools, Krueger said some families aren’t wanting to transfer to the Middle College, leading to a smaller number of first year students then usual.

There are a total of 363 students enrolled, four less than the 2019-20 school year.

“Personally I’m a little disappointed because this is the first year that we weren’t bigger than the year before,” Krueger said.

All students, both virtual and on-campus, have access to all Middle College sources such as aid from MCMC counselor Michele Jenkins.

Robert Kreuger is the principal of the MCMC. With classes being blended, Kreuger hopes to still incorporate the gradual release model for students that lets them become more involved with college each year.

Jenkins gives social and emotional council to students as well as career help.

“There’s been kids struggling getting used to in-person classes being automatically switched to online,” Jenkins said. “So we’re just helping them work through that.”

Jenkins has teachers communicate with her about what students need her assistance and lets students stop in her office throughout the week. She also will schedule phone appointments for the virtual students.

“The teachers have students in front of them and on Zoom so trying to make sure the needs are met for both, it’s a balancing act. Considering the circumstances it’s not ideal but they’re handling it well,” Jenkins said.

Some first year students think MCMC staff are doing well with the hybrid format.

“It’s a lot more structured than other schools,” Allen Swaile said.

Year 1 student Camden Mullen said the teachers are a lot more interactive in the Middle College than other teachers he’s had in past schools.

Even with having students fully virtual this year, Krueger said all students continue to go through the gradual release model.

That is, introducing them to more college classes and less high school classes each year so that by year 5 they are taking all college classes.

“It’s hard to graduate and jump into full-time college” Krueger said. “It’s like a brick-wall and we want remove that transition.”

“We have to ensure the highest level of success for remote learning as possible because this is new to everybody so we’re reaching out to students all the time,” Krueger said.

Krueger said he always aims for a 90 percent pass rate for students and will continue to use an academic watchlist to help any students who are in need through the school year.