Delaware City Schools announced Thursday it will hold a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, to “further discuss school reopening plans and safety protocols.”
Delaware General Health District Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson will be joining the Delaware City Schools Board of Education for the meeting, which will be held virtually and streamed on the district’s Facebook page.
The announcement comes after the board discussed the district’s reopening plans at its previous meeting on Aug. 3.
The district’s current plan to return to school is to return to instruction on Aug. 31 with a blended model.
According to the DCS Health Restart Plan, students will be placed in one of two groups. Group A (students with last names beginning A-K) will attend on Monday/Tuesday and Group B (students with last names beginning L-Z) will attend on Thursday/Friday. Wednesday will be the alternating day for the groups.
The district is also offering a full-time at-home learning option through the DCS Online Academy.
If Delaware County reaches a Level 4 on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, meaning the COVID-19 outbreak has very high exposure and spread, the district has noted it would move to all-online education for the start of school.
However, on Monday, members of the BOE discussed the possibility of moving all instruction online for the start of school.
Board member Frances O’Flaherty said the board should consider moving to a remote start because there are already reports of deaths and outbreaks related to school openings during the pandemic.
“We had talked earlier at a previous meeting, and at that time we thought the hybrid option looked good for providing the most interactions with teachers and students and having the least risk attached, and I think we need to reevaluate,” O’Flaherty said during the board comments section of the meeting.
She went on to say that she thinks the district should move to all online “until we can guarantee the safety of every student, every bus driver, and every staff member.”
“The virus does not differentiate,” O’Flaherty said Monday. “We don’t know everything that’s going to happen. I can 100% guarantee that nobody sitting on this board right now thought that we were going to have to make a life-and-death kind of decision like this. I can’t look back five years from now and say, ‘Oh, it didn’t matter’ because it does matter.”
Board President Matt Weller said the board would continue to keep up with the outbreak in the county and suggested it not make any decision until closer to the start of the school, and he suggested the board discuss the plan again at its Aug. 17 meeting.
Board member Ted Backus agreed that the decision should be data driven, but he asked that the district make the decision “sooner than later” so families and teachers have time to prepare.
“There’s a lot of preparation that has to be in place if we do choose to go down the online route,” Backus said. “The sooner we’re able to do that, if that’s going to be our decision, it gives our teachers, especially, the opportunity to be better prepared for that, and certainly our families to prepare. Being on a hybrid model and being totally online are two very different things, and I feel they have to be prepared for that.”
Weller agreed and said it’s not an “easy decision.”
“We appreciate everybody’s thoughts and input here,” Weller said Monday. “The hard part is there’s no right answer on this topic. If we knew the right answer, we would have chosen it by now … Let’s be pragmatic, look at what’s out there, and make decisions accordingly based on what’s presented to us.”
Board member Michael Wiener suggested having the the Delaware General Health District come to a meeting to discuss plans with the board.
The meeting will be streamed at 6 p.m. Monday at www.facebook.com/delawarecityschools/.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.