Classroom attendance strong under virtual model

Shelley Moffitt, senior secretary at Towne Point Elementary and Toriano Giddens, principal, review paperwork during the first remote week for Capital School District. (Submitted photo)

Online classrooms have resumed for districts across the state this week, with several reporting attendance above 90%.

Following Gov. John Carney’s August announcement that schools could open with hybrid learning — a mixture of in-person and remote instruction — it was up to districts and charters to determine what was best for them.

Decisions were varied, but regardless of whether students are at their desks or learning from home, there is a greater reliance on virtual learning for the fall.

Tere Crawford, 2020-2021 Towne Point Teacher of the Year, works with her students on Zoom. (Submitted photo)

The start of the week was not without its technical difficulties.

“It got progressively better every day,” said Lake Forest Superintendent Steven Lucas.

For the first three days of learning, the average attendance was about 90% districtwide. Attendance was stronger at the elementary level versus the secondary level, he said.

“I have all my schools submitting lists of no-shows, like who didn’t you see all week, what kids,” he said. “And those numbers are really pretty manageable.”

Milford School District handed out tech equipment to its students last week to prepare for the start of virtual learning Monday. (Submitted photo)

The schools have been reaching out to families to determine why they haven’t been signing on — finding reasons from being out of town, to no technology, to lost passwords or that they’d moved, he said.

While a majority of the district is entirely remote — 90% — 10%, or 345 students, are taking part in face-to-face instruction or face-to-face/hybrid instruction, he said. The district’s total population is about 3,600.

Upstate, in Smyrna, 93% of the district students were in attendance Thursday, “which is a positive data point, even in a traditional setting,” said Superintendent Patrik Williams in an email.

Lorewood Grove Elementary educators keep active during virtual learning during Appoquinimink’s first week of virtual learning. (Submitted photo)

“If any student doesn’t participate in the lesson, either synchronously or asynchronously, but completes the assignment at some point in a week or so, the attendance will be adjusted from ‘absent’ to ‘present,’” he said. “This would increase rates later, of course.”

Similar to Lake Forest, teachers are the first point of contact to reach out to families and help students complete work. If teachers are unable to reach those families, they notify counselors and administrators.

First grade teacher Kirstin Stainbach communicates with her new class at Brick Mill Elementary during Appoquinimink’s first week of remote learning. (Submitted photo)

“Our thought is that these students may require more individualized intervention and will be supported on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

The data is fairly consistent with where the district found itself in April, when schools were first settling into a fully remote setting. As of last year’s data, Smyrna’s student population was approximately 5,800.

More than 99% of Caesar Rodney School District students have retrieved school-loaned devices for remote learning, said Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald in an email.

School attendance is hovering around 93%, he said.

“The district is making phone calls to parents, home visits and even doing supply deliveries with the assistance of our transportation department,” he said. “For students who have special circumstances that do not allow for synchronous learning, our principals and teachers are working with families to chart out individual learning plans.”

The district’s enrollment has also increased over the last week, he said. The school district’s population was approximately 8,000 last year.

“I’m sure that as students, parents and teachers become more comfortable with the online platform and any connectivity issues are resolved we expect participation to increase,” he said.

In addition to its mostly remote beginning, the district is holding in-person opportunities for small groups of students.

Of its 12,070 students, 98% of Appoquinimink’s students were marked as present for its remote learning.

If a child is not present in class, the teacher reaches out with a combination of a phone call and email to connect with a parent-guardian, said Paul Rabinovitch, supervisor of assessment, research & accountability, in an email.

“We are finding that the two main reasons for absence at this point in the year are: 1) The family is still finalizing childcare arrangements or 2) They have a technology need,” he said. “Our goal is to supply all our families with a district-supported device, so once we learn about that, we get a delivery scheduled.”

It typically takes one to two days to get an electronic tablet prepped and delivered to a new student. In the meantime, they use a device that is already in the house, he said.

The district also hosted “meet the teacher” events prior to the start of school and is prioritizing communication, he said, noting the weekly communication from the district, from school building leaders and teachers.

Milford School District, which formally begins classes Sept. 14, distributed laptops last week.

“This gave students and families an opportunity to not only meet their teachers in person, but to also log on to their chromebooks and respective online classroom and take a tour,” Trish Gerken, a spokeswoman for the district, said in an email. “Milford School District has been working around the clock to ensure all technology resources are ready for remote learning. This has included a variety of staff members working to connect with our children and families to ensure a thorough understanding of how to use the technology tools, confirming internet connectivity and connecting them with resources if necessary.”

Back to school

The following is a list of how Delaware’s public school districts have decided to begin the 2020-21 school year.

Remote learning remains an option for students in all districts even as schools begin bringing students back to the classrooms.

Appoquinimink

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Notes: Elementary cohorts would alternate one day in school, the next remote. All elementary students will participate in remote learning on Wednesdays. In middle and high school, students will be assigned to one of three cohorts. Two will attend classes in school two times a week. One cohort will remain virtual.

Brandywine

School starts: Sept. 16.

Return-to-school format: Remote first marking period.

Hybrid begins: Target date not yet released.

Caesar Rodney

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks, with small-group in-person instruction opportunities.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Notes: Hybrid learning will be phased in, beginning with elementary grades Oct. 19, concluding with high school students Nov. 16.

Cape Henlopen

School starts: Sept. 16.

Return-to-school format: Hybrid.

Notes: The hybrid model would see students back in school for several days throughout the week — with the elementary students in all five days, while middle and high school students would attend two days a week.

Capital

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks.

Hybrid begins: Pending board approval, after Oct. 20.

Notes: The district would phase in at-school learning, beginning with pre-K through second grade, then grades three and four, then grades five through 12.

Christina

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Colonial

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Delmar

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote for first quarter.

Hybrid begins: Nov. 17.

Notes: District is split between Delaware and Maryland, with the middle and high school in Delaware, under the jurisdiction of the Delmar school board. Students in grades pre-K through 4 attend school in Delmar, Maryland, which is under the jurisdiction of Wicomico County’s school board, meaning that board will determine how school will start for the younger learners.

Indian River

School starts: Sept. 17.

Return-to-school format: Remote.

Hybrid begins: For some, Sept. 21.

Notes: The district will phase in hybrid learning, starting with the youngest learners in September, concluding in mid-November.

Lake Forest

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks (students can opt for hybrid learning).

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Notes: Phased-in approach. Students in pre-K, kindergarten and grades one, four, six and nine will return to school first. Grades five, seven and 11 will join in Phase 3, followed by the rest of students in Phase 4. The dates for the latter phases will be determined as conditions allow.

Laurel

School starts: Sept. 14.

Return-to-school format: Remote first quarter.

Hybrid begins: Nov. 9.

Milford

School starts: Sept. 14.

Return-to-school format: Remote.

Hybrid begins: Phase-in complete by Nov. 16.

Notes: Remote orientation period Sept. 9-11, with instruction beginning Sept. 14. Hybrid will be phased in over nine weeks. Students with complex and special needs begin Sept. 21. Pre-K begins Sept. 28, followed by new English learners Oct. 5, grades one through three Oct. 12, grades four and five Oct. 19, middle school Oct. 26 and high school Nov. 16.

New Castle County VoTech

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Notes: Remote learning for the first six weeks. The goal is to bring students back by grade level for one day of in-person instruction each week.

Polytech

School started: Sept. 9.

Return-to-school format: Hybrid.

Notes: Students will be split into three groups — A, B and C — which will attend school on either Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

Red Clay

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote first six weeks.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 19.

Notes: Phase-in of hybrid learning for specific grade levels/programs.

Seaford

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Hybrid.

Notes: One cohort will attend school Monday/Tuesday, while another student cohort will attend Thursday/Friday. Wednesday is a day of remote instruction for all students.

Smyrna

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Remote.

Hybrid begins: Oct. 5.

Notes: Phase-in approach. From Oct. 5-23, grades kindergarten through three will be hybrid, while grades pre-K and four through 12 will be virtual. From Oct. 26-Nov. 13, grades pre-K through six will be hybrid, while grades seven through 12 will be virtual. From Nov. 16-Dec. 4, grades pre-K through eight will be hybrid, while grades nine through 12 will be virtual. After Dec. 7, until a new order is mandated by the state, all students will be hybrid.

Sussex Tech

School started: Sept. 8.

Return-to-school format: Modified remote.

Notes: Hybrid could potentially begin after the first marking period. During the remote period, teachers can hold voluntary in-person programs with parent permission.

Woodbridge

School starts: Sept. 16.

Return-to-school format: Hybrid.

Notes: The district will operate on an “A Week/B Week” schedule. The two cohorts will be determined alphabetically, and approximately 50% of students will attend school during A Week, while the B cohort will remain home and receive remote instruction. The following week, the B cohort students will attend school during B Week, while the A cohort receives remote instruction.


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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