How do we structure time on and off campus to engage students in safe and meaningful learning?


To ensure students are safe and learning, using space and time effectively will be more critical than ever. Schedule guidelines allow teachers to plan learning experiences with prioritized goals in mind; set clear expectations and communicate them to students and families; and, most importantly, build continuity, routine, and connection for students in a time of uncertainty.


All schools should plan for students to be taught both on and off campus. Schools will have to plan for fewer students on campus at once and possibly some students doing distance learning full-time. While the use of space will be different for each campus, there are some common themes and opportunities for leaders to structure time for students and staff. Do not spend time trying to replicate how things were done previously. Instead, think about how they need to be done now. Below we offer possible scheduling models for hybrid learning and guidance on how to pick one that works best for your schools and families.



Models to Consider 

ACSA provides a detailed report that considers various options for scheduling on-campus time, including:

  • Alternating weeks: Half of the students are on campus each week, alternating throughout the year. 
    • Here’s an example plan from ERS for a high school context.
  • At-risk rotations: Tier 1 students are on campus one day per week, and tier 2 and 3 students have additional days on campus for intensive support. 
    • Here’s an example from ERS of a middle school schedule prioritizing on-campus time for students with the highest needs.
  • Two-day rotations: Students are divided into two groups, each of which is on campus two days per week and distance learning the other three days. 
  • Elementary on-campus/secondary distance learning: Elementary students learn face-to- face, spreading out across all the campuses in a district, while secondary students continue distance learning. 
    • ERS provides an example plan for K-3 instruction in person, with grades 4 and 5 learning remotely.
  • Gradeband phase-in: The youngest students come back to school first, and older students phase in as social distancing needs change.  
  • Rotating block schedule for middle and high school: Classes meet fewer times per week for longer, with different tracks of students rotating throughout the week. Students are on campus two days a week and off-site the rest of the time.   
  • One-day rotation: Students are divided into five groups; each group is on campus one day per week and distance learning the other four days.


ACSA report offering various options for scheduling on-campus time.

Picking a Model:

Picking a model for your students will depend on your staffing, available space, and community needs, but here are a few considerations as you choose your model: 

  • Facilities. How many rooms do you have available? Can you make other spaces available in new and creative ways (e.g., moving some activities outside, using rooms previously used for storage or testing)?
  • Staffing. How can teacher schedules change? What training is needed to prepare them for potentially new roles, tasks, or teaching methods? How will you ensure staff members have adequate time for planning and extra preparation required for remote learning?
  • Transportation. What are families’ transportation needs given your new schedule? Can buses transport fewer students at once to comply with social distancing requirements?
  • Health and safety. Time and funding will need to be allotted to comply with the mandated screening, cleaning, and distancing guidelines. Consider these as you plan:
    • Build time for health screenings into the schedule. A staggered start time is recommended.
    • Consider physical distancing requirements and limiting movement when possible. Consider making hallways one-directional and releasing classes in staggered ways. Create structures for maintaining physical distancing through the school day, from arrival through departure. Keep in mind that creating structures for all previously unstructured transitions and settings will create additional demands on employees and may feel very restrictive to students and staff.
    • Ensure that students’ nutritional needs are met. This may mean that lunch or recess may need to take place in the classroom or with new rules.
    • Limiting exposure will require dividing students into cohorts when possible and reducing contact between those cohorts.
    • Cleaning time, needs, and costs will change. This means allotting time for cleaning, purchasing equipment, and possibly reallocating maintenance staff. Consider opening campuses on different days of the week so cleaning teams can be shared across campuses. 
  • Technology tools and access. If students are off-site for multiple days or some students do not attend classes on campus for long periods of time, your team will have to address internet and device access limitations at home and on campus to ensure equity.


Other Considerations 

As you consider which models will work best for your families and staff, you may also want to take into account these additional considerations: 

  • Foster connection and community:
    • What can you do to help students stay connected to their schools? Options include assigning support staff to check in on students on their off-campus days, keeping elementary students with their teachers from last year (“looping”), and livestreaming morning meetings or the school news channel so off-campus students can see them.
    • Leverage your afterschool partners and community-based resources for an extended school day or support for families. 
    • Make sure teachers have opportunities for one-on-one check-ins to assure students are safe. Also offer opportunities for small-group instruction. 
  • Ensure consistency: Keep when students are on site as consistent and predictable as possible. Avoid last-minute changes or varying every day. Routine is good not only for learning but also for social-emotional well-being. 

Testing Your Plan

  • Run DILO simulations: Test your plans using day-in-the-life-of (DILO) simulations, like this one from CCSSO, to be sure they will work for your community of learners. Pretend you are a student: what is the process of logging in, showing up on campus, or attending class?
  • Focus on equity: Consider the needs of students who were most significantly impacted most by shelter-in-place when building your schedule. 
  • Seek parent input: Engage parents as part of the solution; put together a small focus group of parents to test your assumptions. Run them through the schedule and listen to their feedback and concerns. 

Sample Schedules and Planning Tools by Grade Level


Sample schedules for elementary, middle, and high schools to help you plan your student experience.




  • What schedule changes did we make during COVID that had a positive impact and are worth continuing? 
  • How are we using our schedule in bold ways to create improved outcomes for students? Where do we have opportunities to improve scheduling?
  • How can we leverage our schedule to meet the needs of various learners?
  • Do we have schedules that accommodate both distance learning, onsite learning, and hybrid learning? 
  • How are we taking into account the most vulnerable learners in these decisions?
  • Where are the opportunities to hear from families and students about what they need or want? 
The Field Guide for California LEAs
The Field Guide for accelerating learning, equity, and well being was developed by the California Collaborative for
Educational Excellence for California LEAs in collaboration with technical assistance partners.