Woodbridge schools to remain hybrid through Dec. 18

With winter holidays approaching — typically marked by large gatherings — school leadership across the state continues to choose the path ahead for operating their schools.

Woodbridge School District will remain in hybrid learning until the week of Christmas, officials announced.

In a post Tuesday, district officials said that the district would continue its hybrid model next week, before moving to remote learning the week of Christmas, prior to break.

The district will reopen for hybrid Jan. 11, in alignment with the governor’s recommended reopening date.

Woodbridge is the latest Downstate district to determine its path forward following Gov. John Carney’s loose guidance last week that stated schools should close Dec. 14 to Jan. 11 — unless they’re not facing difficulties by continuing to operate hybrid. The governor said schools could continue to use hybrid instruction if that was possible operationally.

Ultimately, it is up to the discretion of district and charter leadership to determine how to proceed through the winter holidays. Those decisions varied.

Tuesday night, the school board in Appoquinimink — located in lower New Castle County — voted unanimously to set an anticipated hybrid return date for Jan. 11. It also established Jan. 5 as a meeting date for the board to discuss and formally decide on whether to return, given the public health climate at that time.

The district moved into remote learning last week in a special meeting called together hours after Gov. Carney’s recommendation.

“We all want to be in face-to-face,” Superintendent Dr. Matt Burrows said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We realize that face-to-face is the best we operate. We really do a great job in operating face-to-face. We also have to consider the safety of the 12,000 students we have, the 1,200 employees we have and then all the families in our community. In doing so, it’s unfortunate that we have to be in virtual.”

Dr. Burrows said that there have been 110 positive cases for students, 52 still active, and 56 positive cases for staff, with 31 still active.

But where the district faces the biggest impact is quarantines. There have been 605 students quarantined, with 267 not cleared. Meanwhile, 162 staff have been quarantined, with 64 not yet cleared, he said Tuesday.

Those quarantines don’t include staff members who are out under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act or long-term or short-term disability, Dr. Burrows said.

Even as the board set the date for a return just about a month from now, board members acknowledged the circumstances are disappointing.

Board member Michele Wall called it a “pause” for the district.

“This is not where any of us wanted to be,” she said.

“I think everyone on this board wants to do what’s in the best interest of our students and our staff. We’d just as soon be back in full-time mode right now, but we know that would not be safe from a public health perspective,” board president Richard Forsten said. “Hopefully, on Jan. 11, the governor won’t have changed his advisory and it’ll still be recommended to come back to hybrid on that date.”

Dr. Burrows noted that there is a frustration with the district moving back to virtual.

“I have a student, as well, and he doesn’t thrive in virtual either,” he said. “So I understand as a parent. Our goal, as a school board and as a district, is to get back to normal as soon as possible, when the data shows us it’s safe to do that.”

On Monday, Caesar Rodney’s school board also decided to follow the governor’s guidance, opting to keep school buildings closed until Jan. 11. Its schools have been remote since last week, after Kent County’s COVID-19 data went all red, indicating significant community spread.

Smyrna opted to begin remote instruction this week — ahead of the state’s recommendation.

Seaford announced it would follow the governor’s guidance and move to remote Dec. 14, as will Lake Forest.

Milford will continue with hybrid this week for its students in pre-K through eight before moving to remote learning Dec. 14. Milford High was hybrid Monday and Tuesday and returned to remote Wednesday. All grade levels are anticipated to return in a hybrid fashion Jan. 11.

Indian River rolled out a compromise, remaining hybrid until the week of Christmas break and staying remote through the first week of January.

Cape Henlopen decided it would remain open despite the state’s recommendation. Polytech made a similar decision, stating that the district will “make good use of the time between now and Dec. 14 to continually monitor district health and operational data and assess the safety of our hybrid learning models.”

Laurel and Delmar announced in November they would be remote until the new year. Following the release of Kent County’s data last week, Capital opted to move to remote instruction until Jan. 4.

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

Have a question, tip, or resources about the coronavirus pandemic? Submit it to our newsroom and we’ll do what we can to provide answers.