Jan. 11 still target for Delaware schools to return to hybrid status

DOVER — Gov. John Carney is still eying Jan. 11 as the date for schools to return to hybrid learning whether educators are vaccinated or not, he said at a press briefing Tuesday.

“Obviously, vaccinating teachers is an important priority for us to help with the objective of creating a comfort level for educators to move back to in-person instruction,” he said. “We know that remote learning has a very negative effect on children and that they are losing precious days of instruction as a result of that.”

For three weeks, school reopening criteria released by the state has been all “red,” showing significant spread in the community. Earlier this month, Gov. Carney recommended that schools move to remote instruction beginning Dec. 14 and reopening Jan. 11, with the caveat that if schools could continue to operate in hybrid models, they should do so.

During the pause of hybrid learning, he said the state is “all hands on deck.”

“We’ve met with just about all of the local teacher organizations to answer their questions to try to get to a comfort level, to address operational issues — and there are operational issues — meeting and speaking with the superintendents on a weekly basis as we do,” he said. “We believe that vaccination of educators and teachers should be a priority for the goal of getting children back in front of teachers for in-person instruction,” he added.

The brief update on schools Tuesday was a prelude to more coming potentially next week, with information from a study out of Mississippi, he said.

Many districts have ultimately followed Gov. Carney’s recommendation, citing operational difficulties — spawned by numbers of educators quarantining.

When Appoquinimink — one of the largest school districts in the state — pulled a school board meeting together following the governor’s recommendation Dec. 3, Superintendent Matt Burrows said the district had reached a point “where it’s very difficult for us to operate.”

The district has 177 substitute teachers signed up, with 75 willing to come to class.

“Those are maxed out,” he said at the time. “We have had our related arts teachers, our paraprofessionals, our interventionists, we’ve had our administrators in covering classes for teachers. We’re at a point where we don’t have people to cover classes as we move forward and it’s causing a stress on the system.”

Cape Henlopen, which had sought to remain open through the month, moved to remote learning this week after a rise in quarantines.

“Unfortunately, the number of necessary quarantines for the positive cases have increased over the last few days,” Superintendent Bob Fulton wrote in a letter to families Dec. 14. “This increase in quarantines, along with a lack of substitute teacher coverage in the classrooms, has caused operational challenges for our schools.”

Statewide, the reopening criteria shows there is a 555.6 new case rate per 100,000 people, 9.3% of tests that are positive and 40.1 average daily hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

The new case rate and percent of positive tests show a slight decline from data last week — which had consistently been trending upward since October — but an increase for hospitalizations.

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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