More Lake Forest students to return to school in November

FELTON — The rest of the Lake Forest School District students are anticipated to head back to school in November under a hybrid model.

The district began “phase two” of its hybrid instruction Monday, bringing back students in grades pre-K, kindergarten, one, two, six and nine. Those students joined those who have been back since Sept. 8 because their needs couldn’t be met in a remote environment. 

On Nov. 9, the district will add grades two, three, five, seven and 11 in phase three, said Superintendent Steven Lucas.

“By all evidence, if we respect the rules we have in place, we can safely expand the number of students returning to school each week,” he said. 

The district also anticipates phase four, adding the remaining grades, starting Nov. 30. That decision will formally come before the board Nov. 12. 

“I do want to qualify all of this by saying if conditions change and we feel that there’s an unmanageable risk to our students or staff, we’ll adjust these activities to mitigate the risk before we bring students back to school,” Dr. Lucas said.

When the district originally presented its hybrid plan, it withheld dates for phases three and four to determine public health conditions.

Lake Forest operates on a “week in, week out format,” where cohort A of the students receive face-to-face instruction Monday through Thursday and cohort B is entirely remote. The next week, they swap. Friday is remote districtwide. 

Two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 the week prior to school starting, Dr. Lucas said, adding that neither case was contracted in school or through school activities. Citing the Division of Public Health, he added that there have been “two cases of staff and students contracting COVID in a Delaware public school and in both cases the persons were not observing the established protocols like mask-wearing or social distancing,” he said. 

In total, as of last Friday, DPH reported that 17 students and 62 staff in public schools had tested positive for the virus statewide since Sept. 1. 

“While it seems we’re pressing forward a little faster than we have so far this year, there’s good reasoning behind this decision,” Dr. Lucas said. “First, we’re going to try our best to see that all students have the opportunity to get at least a little bit of time in front of their teachers before we break for the winter.”

With the natural breaks in the calendar, phase two will be an entirety of two weeks. The district plans to be in phase three for two weeks. After Thanksgiving break, if all goes according to plan, the district will be in phase four for three weeks before winter break.

“This will allow every student in our community the chance to be in front of their teacher for at least a short period of time before we break for winter,” Dr. Lucas said. “I’m confident if we follow the protocols we have in place and all respect the process, we can return to school safely and start on the road to the kind of school experience our students deserve.”

Lake Forest was among several districts — such as Caesar Rodney and Appoquiniminik — that brought students back this week. Other districts (Cape Henlopen, Seaford, Polytech) have been hybrid since they first opened their doors in September. 

Meanwhile, the decision to return students to in-person learning was weighed heavily this week at Capital’s school board meeting, with a 3-2 vote they would begin phasing in their students Nov. 9. Sussex Tech, meanwhile, decided that it would continue its modified remote plan until at least February 2021.