The long-awaited decision on school reopening was put to bed Aug. 4 when Gov. John Carney chose a blend of inperson and online teaching for the 2020-21 school year.
“The next step is for the local districts and charters to decide exactly what plan would be best for the students and staff in those particular mobile education agencies, and those plans are being finalized,” said Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting during an Aug. 4 press conference.
The Cape Henlopen School District met Thursday, Aug. 6, after the Cape Gazette press deadline to discuss and vote on the school reopening plan. A recent survey sent to parents revealed about half are in favor of inperson instruction - 48 percent. Nineteen percent said they want remote instruction, and the rest were undecided.
Carney announced his hybrid-learning decision after consulting with members of the Delaware Division of Public Health.
Dr. Rick Hong, DPH medical director, said the state is using three metrics to determine the severity of COVID-19 and will continue to use them as students return to school. Based on the number of new cases, percentage of people who test positive, and the average of daily hospitalizations, Hong said, officials will determine whether COVID-19 spread is significant, moderate, or minimal.
Since June 20, state data has shown moderate spread, resulting in the state's decision to start school with a hybrid model.
“If schools feel they cannot provide a safe environment for their teachers, staff and students, they can opt to be more restrictive which would be remote learning 100 percent,” Hong said. “However, at this time we would not recommend going the other direction to scenario - 100 percent in-person learning - based on what we're seeing in the state at this time.”
Hong said schools are expected to practice social distancing with students and teachers wearing face coverings, staying at least six feet away from each other, and using proper hygiene to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when classes resume. He said there is no limit to the number of students who can return to a school building, since the amount of space varies from building to building.
“As long as they are able to meet the social distancing recommendations and the infection-control measures that's what will determine the census of the schools,” Hong said.
Proposal delays Fall sports until February
Fall school sports could be squeezed into a shortened season in February between winter and spring seasons if the Delaware State Board of Education goes along with a recommendation by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association Board of Directors Aug. 6.
“We're going to go to this scenario, and the final dates are going to be determined,” said Ted Laws, a DIAA board member.
DIAA will determine final dates to start practice and competition during its September meeting.
As of now, the DIAA recommendation would start Monday, Dec. 14, with practices for winter sports. The first day of competition would be Jan. 4 running through Feb. 15. All state tournaments would run as normal.
The fall season would start practices Friday, Feb. 19, with the first day of competition March 12. The last day of competition would be April 17 for football's six-game season, and end April 21 for all other sports. The football tournament would be condensed to four teams per division – all other tournaments would run as normal.
In the spring, practices would start Monday, April 19, with the first day of competition May 10. The last day of competition would be June 19 with tournaments running as normal.
Off the quarantine list, again
Delaware has been taken off quarantine lists for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut in the latest round of Delaware's on-again, off-again quarantine saga. Carney said the number of COVID-19 cases per day dropped to 97 a day, prompting Delaware's removal from the list. Delaware was placed on the quarantine list in early July but taken off by July 21, only to end up on the list again. Washington, D.C., also placed Delaware on a quarantine list requiring 14 days of quarantine for visitors. Delaware remains on the Washington, D.C., list which has not been updated since July 27.
Carney said those states should be using the number of new cases and percent of positive for a more accurate measure of COVID-19 severity, instead of the per day number of new cases those states solely rely on for their lists.