All Laurel schools remote through Thanksgiving break after COVID-19 cases

LAUREL — All Laurel School District students will move to remote learning today through Thanksgiving break after a number of positive COVID-19 cases, officials announced.

“This decision was not made lightly, and I certainly understand that it may cause great frustration and disruption to some [of] our families’ schedules. For that I am sorry,” a letter posted to the district’s website stated. “But, again, The Laurel School District must continue to keep the wellbeing and safety of our students and staff at the forefront of our decision-making during this pandemic.”

The schools are set to reopen after Thanksgiving break. 

The decision came as the district had originally prepared to close Laurel Elementary School this week through Thanksgiving, and all other district schools next week. But officials learned of a middle school student who had “direct contact with 48 total individuals including students, fellow bus-riders, teachers, support staff members and administrators,” according to the letter.

Out of an “abundance of caution and the overwhelming obligation to keep all our students and educators safe,” the district opted to switch to full remote learning for about two weeks. 

Students and their families were asked to check Schoology Tuesday for updated learning schedules.

“We will ask all teachers to have a check in Zoom with all of their classes to update students on their remote learning schedule through Thanksgiving,” the letter said.

The closure of Laurel schools comes as the state is facing an increase in cases. Monday, one of the criteria for school reopening — new cases per 100,000 — jumped to 216.9 from last week’s data (135.9), putting it further into the “red” category for the third week in a row.

In an interview Monday, Dr. Rick Hong, medical director at the Division of Public Health, said that officials are watching how the data trends.

“Currently there’s just one [red category], but we’re more concerned about the trend, and we’ve also notified schools and been in constant communication with them of this trend,” he said. “The expectation is not for schools to react on a week-by-week basis on the changes in colors. It’s really the trend we’re most interested in.”

Milford School District also closed three schools Monday after several COVID-19 cases. The district reopened two for learning Tuesday, but the third — its high school, which hadn’t officially brought all its grade levels back yet — remained closed.

Morris Early Childhood Center and Banneker Elementary Schools reopened Tuesday after DPH considered the several cases on the campuses were “low risk,” a spokeswoman said.

The district continues to work with DPH regarding the positive cases of two Milford High School individuals, and will communicate further details for the remainder of the week Tuesday, the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, other districts have announced cases in their schools but haven’t closed buildings due to a lack of significant spread within the buildings. Dr. Hong said Monday that the “couple cases” they believe to have been transmitted in schools are “linked to non-compliance with the infection control measures.”

But he reminded families and students to continue practicing mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing outside of schools to keep the spread of the virus low. 

Along those lines, Cape Henlopen sent a letter to families Monday, urging them to keep up safety protocols.

“Because of the attention to detail and our students and staff adhering to protocols while in school, COVID-19 has not impacted the District with closures, and our schools are not contributing to the spread of the virus in the community,” Superintendent Bob Fulton said in the letter. “It is important for me to remind everyone that our ability to remain in school and provide in-person instruction is directly dependent on the actions of our students, staff and their families while at home or in the community.”

With Thanksgiving almost upon us, large gatherings are top of mind. Mr. Fulton asked families to think about their plans.

“I request that as you consider plans for Thanksgiving vacation, you limit your family’s exposure to potentially COVID positive friends/family,” he wrote. “Keep your circles/celebrations small, and if you are traveling please consider returning to town in time to be tested prior to returning to school. Our ability to keep schools open depends on everyone doing their part when students are not in school.”