Appoquinimink on track to resume hybrid Monday

ODESSA — School will be back in session in person for Appoquinimink students Monday. 

The school board upheld its decision from last month that students will return to class Monday, taking no vote during Tuesday’s workshop. 

Appoquinimink was among other districts to follow Gov. John Carney’s recommendation that in-person learning pause Dec. 14 until Jan. 11 (unless schools were able to continue offering hybrid classes operationally). The district moved to hybrid a week earlier, out of operational challenges. 

At the time, Superintendent Matt Burrows expressed concern for the rate of active quarantines and a lack of substitutes. 

Before the school district’s hybrid instruction went on hiatus, Dr. Burrows said there were 267 students quarantining, and 64 staff.

As of Tuesday, those rates had dropped: 37 staff are actively quarantining (2.3% of the total staff population) and 165 students (1.4% of the student population), said Yvonne Camac, lead nurse for the district. There are currently 14 active staff positive COVID-19 cases and 70 active student cases, Ms. Camac said.

The board meeting followed Gov. Carney’s push Tuesday that schools reopen to hybrid next week. The state also changed its metrics for tracking COVID-19 and schools, opting to provide a district- and charter-level positivity approach.

“We no longer believe that the reopening dashboard is an accurate reflection of the conditions in schools,” Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Division of Public Health, said at a press conference Tuesday. “In fact, what we saw in November and December when we had higher levels of community spread, although there were more cases of people who were affiliated with schools, we did not see more spread in the school setting. Really that was quite eye-opening.”

As the district moves forward, officials discussed closing buildings if operational issues arise, rather than moving the whole district remote, if applicable. 

“We’re asking for some flexibility and we know it’s hard in these times, but we’re going to try to keep schools open,” Dr. Burrows said. “That’s our goal: to keep schools open, to keep kids safe and our staff safe in school. But there may be situations that are out of our control where a large quantity of people get quarantined.”

Board member Charlisa Edelin said that getting kids in school was a priority, but raised concerns.

“We want kids back in school, particularly K-5,” she said. “We definitely want kids back in school. But we have to be assured, or as assured as we can, that staff is safe.”

Board member Richard Forsten said that the district will be tracking the data “more closely than ever.”

“And if, three or four weeks from now, it looks like maybe we have to make adjustments, that’s what we’ll have to do,” he said. “That’s all we can ever do. But I don’t think we should hesitate at this moment, at this time, based on the data that we know now not to reopen in hybrid.”