School leadership aims to reduce screen time for young learners in Caesar Rodney

CAMDEN — As the district approaches hybrid learning, screen time will be cut down for young students in Caesar Rodney schools following community feedback, officials said Monday.

“We have received lots of emails with some concerns that our screen time at the elementary level was too intense for some of our younger students,” said Tara Faircloth, supervisor of instruction for the district. “We felt like we needed to have enough time in order to provide the necessary instruction for our children so that they’re not behind, while supporting some of the needs we heard throughout the community.”

Students in Caesar Rodney, like many in Kent County, started the year mostly remote, before beginning to phase in hybrid learning — a mixture of in-person and remote instruction — mid-October.

At Monday’s board workshop, Ms. Faircloth laid out plans for the district’s hybrid model, which will see the students who are learning remotely Zooming in to live, in-person classes. 

As students start their school days remotely now, there’s a two hour block of instruction in the morning and afternoon, with activities planned for the middle of the day. 

In the hybrid format, elementary students wouldn’t necessarily have to log back in during the afternoon because the final class of the day, social studies, is asynchronous (not a live lecture).

“They’re still going to have some screen time to do it, but it doesn’t have to be within the parameters of the day; that could be done at a different time,” Ms. Faircloth said. “We found that our attendance in the morning was better than trying to bring the kids in, in the afternoon so we tried to target those two one-hour chunks in the morning.”

Mike Marasco, school board president, noted that is a change from four to five hours now to three to four hours when that schedule begins.

“I think that’s a step in the right direction,” he said. 

Schedule shifts to align with the new model could come Oct. 12, the week before hybrid learning starts, Ms. Faircloth said.

As the district, like many others, gets acquainted with the year, responding to student needs continues to be a concern. Mr. Marasco said the district remains “far from where we were a year ago,” but that they’re headed “down the right path.” 

“I know our hands are tied with the governor’s mandates as to what we are allowed to do and I’m looking forward to getting our kids back, at least somewhat, in school in that classroom setting,” he said.

Meanwhile, at the secondary level, the number of those who wanted to attend in-person created three cohorts of students, along with an entirely remote group. Middle and high school students are slated to return to in-person learning in November.

District-wide, Wednesdays will be fully remote for buildings to be cleaned.