Capital extends remote instruction to Jan. 11

DOVER — Capital School District has amended its remote-learning period to align with the governor’s recent recommendation, with students now slated to return to hybrid instruction Jan. 11.

The board voted unanimously to push the return to hybrid learning back by a week and to schedule a board workshop for Jan. 6 to examine the public health climate at the time.

“Coming in hot off three days after (Jan. 1) I thought would leave us vulnerable,” board member John Martin said. “That extra time gives us a chance … to take a look and see where we are.”

The district’s schools have been remote since last week, when Kent County’s data first showed that there was significant spread of COVID-19 in the county.

Originally, the district was to be closed until Jan. 4. However, in the time since the district announced that date, the governor released his recommendation that schools close Dec. 14 through Jan. 11, unless they could continue to offer hybrid without operational challenges.

That, Interim Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson said, may not have been possible.

“On Nov. 30, we found ourselves in a complicated situation,” she said. “We were having teachers across the district coming and identifying that they had tested positive for COVID-19. We had some students that were identified for us that tested positive for COVID-19. Also, in addition, we had some bus drivers that were testing positive for COVID-19. So we hit a threshold of not only were we hitting red (in Kent County’s data), but also operationally, we began to have some significant challenges in the Capital School District.”

Since school buildings have closed, Dr. Henderson said the district has started therapy services and is currently serving 80 students. The administration also rolled out “Mindful Mondays” and after-school support in each building. The support can target math, reading, social-emotional learning, technology troubleshooting, etc., and is open to parents and students. Dr. Henderson said some supports could be in person, with social distancing and other protocols in place, and some virtual.

Mr. Martin also suggested a “smaller, more contained” in-person cohort of students who need services.

“I believe it is prudent for us to (pause hybrid),” he said. “Also I think we need to understand it is a hardship. It’s hard on the students. It’s not ideal. It’s hard on the educators. It’s hard on the administrators. It’s hard on everybody who tries to service our students, and it’s hard on the families. We recognize that. That notwithstanding, we still have to do what is right, what is safe, and then, we can start trying to look at coming up with a more specific plan, a more tailored plan, to deliver services as needed.”

The district is meeting with the Department of Education and the Division of Public Health on Thursday to discuss COVID-19 reporting. They’ll also meet with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting about the district’s needs moving forward.

Board member Dr. Tony DePrima emphasized that while schools are safe places generally, the district is facing staffing difficulties.

“I can’t emphasize enough for parents (that) you can’t operate when you have so many folks out,” he said. “It’s not an issue of whether the classrooms are safe or not. The issue is whether we can staff the classrooms, get the kids to the school, have folks to clean the school, have folks to serve the food — all of that is a logistical issue. It’s not a health issue. It’s logistics.”

Board member Sean Christiansen said that Dr. Henderson made a command decision when she opted to move to remote learning last week following the release of Kent County’s data and criticized the governor for his “inconsistency with following his (data) dashboard or not following his dashboard.”

The district, he said, based its decision about hybrid learning on the data released by the state. The state is currently trending all red, meaning there is significant community spread.

“(Gov. John Carney) still is pushing the hybrid learning,” he said. “I don’t understand that. That’s a conversation above my paygrade, I guess. But when it was safe to have students in the building, per their dashboard, that’s what we did. Now, the dashboard we’re following, the data says it’s not. So the right decision was made.”

Dr. Henderson noted that the district does want children back in school.

“It was a very difficult decision. I think we made the right decision at this time. But I cannot stress enough for our community, our parents, our students: Please stay safe,” she said. “Please follow the safety protocols that have been put in place by the governor and DPH. It is very important for you to keep yourself, as well as your loved ones, safe.”

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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