Delaware schools adjust to different types of learning

Getting students safely back to school — and giving more comfort to those learning remotely — remain priorities for the state, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, localized plans continue to evolve for school districts as many are beginning hybrid learning this month.

During Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said Delaware’s schools are firmly in the “yellow” status, meaning minimum-to-moderate spread of the virus in the state. Under the “yellow” light, schools are only allowed to be open for hybrid instruction, which is a mixture of in-person and remote lessons.

In August, the state greenlit hybrid learning but how school districts and charters made that happen — following the guidance put out by DOE — was up to them.

Currently, six districts have some in-person learning, six districts have limited in-person services for select groups of students, 10 charters are offering some version of in-person learning and four additional districts are slated to offer in-person learning later this month, Dr. Bunting said.

Dr. Susan Bunting

“Over the past month, I have been visiting schools across the state that are offering some form of in-person learning,” Dr. Bunting said.

“Things look different. As I mentioned, local control has outlined various plans. I’ve been pleased to hear from educators and students about how they have overcome the challenges to return to school buildings and how they are continuing to adapt to meet unforeseen changes that continue to offer students face-to-face learning opportunities for families who choose that option.”

Cape Henlopen, Seaford, Woodbridge and Polytech school districts were among those that opened their doors from the start, while other districts started smaller. Caesar Rodney and Lake Forest school districts began with small in-person opportunities before other grade levels will be phased in. Meanwhile, Capital and Appoquinimink were among those that started largely remotely and are looking toward this month for starting a hybrid model.

Gov. John Carney noted that each of the local options are impacted by the parents and their preference for in-person or remote learning. At Cape Henlopen School District, he said, there was more of an interest for in-person, which impacted how the district could operate hybrid.

“So they’ve got to do the math: how do you fit the children, 3 to 6 feet apart in classrooms? So that’s what they’re struggling with now,” he said. “And that’s why each district is a little bit different because their parent populations are a little bit different, in terms of their desire for in-person and not. We couldn’t bring all of them, 100%, right away, because of the geometry; you have to have enough spaces, buses, all the rest of that.”

He added that the hope is to reduce the percent-positive and total number of cases to refrain from potentially tightening up restrictions on schools, such as happened last March when school buildings closed and never reopened for the 2019-20 school year.

“That’s why we need to redouble our efforts to do better. And that’s why we need to get the message across to college students at the University of Delaware, and our other colleges and universities, to be careful and not carry on [at] social events off-campus that become super-spreaders and for everybody to wear a mask when they’re in public,” he said, adding, “If you want your children back in school — and we all do — let’s wear a mask.”

As of Oct. 1, 73 positive cases have been attributed to students and educators statewide, who were in-person at a school or child care facility while potentially infectious with the virus.

There were 20 students and staff associated with child care, 25 students and staff associated with private K-12 schools and 28 with public K-12 schools. The state began releasing that data ion a weekly basis in September .

“Right now we’re just saying who was in school buildings, but soon we’ll be able to break it down to say, number of staff and school buildings, number of students in school buildings in the time when they were potentially contagious, that’s what those numbers represent,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, Tuesday.

Educators were provided access to at-home test kits leading up to the start of school. Meanwhile, the state also continues to roll out testing sites for students and educators ahead of students returning to classrooms, which can be viewed online at coronavirus.delaware.gov under “testing.”

Regardless of whether schools have some version of in-person learning now, there is still a heavy reliance on the need for remote learning.

DOE has partnered with the Department of Technology and Information to address internet deserts through CARES Act funding, Dr. Bunting said.

“We’ve worked on broadband access, we have tried to eliminate those internet deserts, we have over 300 — in fact, as of this morning, it was 340 — families that had been approved for service,” she said. “We continue to support efforts to increase not just accessibility to the internet in places that was not possible before, but we also work on affordability for our families.”


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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