Appoquinimink sets anticipated hybrid return for January

ODESSA — Appoquinimink School District has set an anticipated return-to-hybrid date for students, following the governor’s recommendation.

The school board voted unanimously to set Monday, Jan. 11 as an hopeful return date for hybrid instruction. It also established Tuesday, Jan. 5 as a meeting date for the board to discuss and formally decide on whether to return, given the public health climate at the time.

The district moved into remote learning last week, in a special meeting called together hours after Gov. John Carney recommended that schools close Dec. 14 through Jan. 11 to stifle the spread of COVID-19 as the winter holidays approach.

“We all want to be in face-to-face,” Superintendent 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. 

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.

“That’s why there’s such an important need for substitutes,” he said. 

Back in virtual, students are now in Virtual 2.0 schedules. 

For pre-K on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, students meet at 9 a.m. for a live Zoom lecture, before breaking into small groups at 9:30 for an hour. Recorded lessons in motor activities, literacy and theme-based activities continue until noon. 

Kindergarten through five meet with a morning meeting, 90 minutes of English language arts in a mix of whole class/small group/independent work, 90 minutes of math in a mix of whole class/small group/independent work movement breaks, 30 minutes of related arts, 45 minutes of science/social studies and 30 minutes of targeted instruction. 

Dr. Sharon Pepukayi, assistant superintendent, noted that the district has talked with teachers and administrators about not having a continuous six-hour timeframe for students to be under virtual learning.  

“We’re going to meet actually again this week because we have received some comments about the length of Zoom time,” she said. “We started off the year with half days in kindergarten and then as we progressed, going now into month four, we feel like students can do more, they don’t need to start with the beginning of the year routines … but we still want to adhere to what we have heard from parents in the comments. So we’re going back to the table again to look at some possible adjustments, especially in the [language] immersion world, too.”

Middle school students start their day at 9:30 a.m., with core subjects or related arts programming through the day until about 3:22 p.m. Flex time/office hours run from 3:22 to 3:45 p.m.

Most classwork is due by 9:59 p.m.; attendance activities due by 3 p.m.

High school students have 60 minutes with their peers and teacher for a class block, with 20 minutes added on to be used for extended class time or office hours. 

The district’s special programs are included in the above schedules. 

Classes are asynchronous Wednesday across the district.

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

Other districts

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 had been remote since last week, after Kent County’s COVID-19 data went all red, indicating significant community spread.

Seaford announced it would follow the governor’s recommendation and move to remote Monday, as will Lake Forest.

Smyrna opted to begin remote instruction this week — ahead of the state’s recommendation. Indian River rolled out a compromise, remaining hybrid until the week of Christmas break and staying remote through the first week of January.

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 will return to remote Wednesday. All grade levels are anticipated to return Jan. 11.

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

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