As the Delaware City School District heads into a long weekend, students and administrators say they believe the first week of school was a success.
In the new learning model at the district, students are divided into two groups by last name and attend school either Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday. The two groups then alternate Wednesdays while studying online on days they don’t attend school in person. The district is also offering an online-only academy taught by Delaware teachers.
A variety of safety features and protocols have been put into practice throughout the district, including distancing, one-way hallways and required masks.
Group A students had their first day of school Monday, and Group B students started their year on Wednesday.
Superintendent Heidi Kegley said in an email Friday that she’s grateful for the community’s cooperation.
“This was truly an incredible first week of school,” Kegley said. “Our teachers and staff had an amazing time connecting with our students in school and online. We cannot stress enough how grateful we are to our entire Pacer community for their cooperation in following the safety protocols. It was so good to see the smiles on our students’ faces in our buildings and as we met with them online. We look forward to seeing everyone back on Tuesday!”
Mackenzie Collett, a Group A senior and the student member of the DCS Board of Education said Friday the first week back went well overall.
“As I have said before, it was definitely not what I anticipated my first week of senior year would look like, but with everything going on, I am just grateful to be at least getting a senior year,” Collett said. “I enjoyed learning in person more than I did online, as I found it easier to stay on track when I was completing my work. However, I will say that the way online work is organized has improved greatly from where it was at in the spring when the pandemic first hit and we were thrust into virtual methods of learning.
Collett added she’s looking forward to getting to know her classmates as the school year continues.
“Due to the fact that we are split into cohorts, I only ever see half of my class at a time, so I look forward to over the next couple of weeks also getting to know the other half of my class through virtual methods of communication,” Collett said. “I know it will take time to get used to, but I am incredibly optimistic that this method of hybrid learning will work and that we will all be able to continue challenging ourselves academically.”
Fellow Group A senior Caylee Combs said Friday she liked seeing her friends again after not seeing them over the summer.
“Even though the restrictions require us to be six feet apart and wear masks, we can still have group discussions and talk with others,” Combs said. “Most hallways are one way, so it is kind of strange when the next class I have is so close and yet I have to go all the way around the school to get to it. The main thing I noticed about this year is that I don’t have many friends in my classes because of the split and how the most I have in a class is about 14 students.”
Combs added it would have been nice if students could have asked for one person to be in their lunch location since she shares her lunch period with several friends, but they all eat in different locations.
Group B senior Ainsley Tatman said Friday the first week back went well.
“I knew the transition back to school after about five and half months would be really different than normal because of how long we were out and also because of the new COVID-19 procedures here at Hayes,” Tatman said. “I believe that our school has done a good job of making everything go as smoothly as possible, and all the teachers and staff have been very understanding and helpful as well.”
Tatman said that returning to school has been “definitely weird.”
“The overall feeling here is different,” she said. “I was glad to finally get to come back and experience my senior year, but I knew it was not going to be like before. Most people I think are happy to be back, and we can still see our friends and learn new things in our classes. Yet, it’s quieter and everyone keeps more to themselves. It feels good to finally be back, but it’s taking some getting used to for all of us.”
Tatman added that she’s proud of how students have handled the changes.
“I think it’s great how well the student body has taken the changes,” Tatman said. “I’ve heard of little to no problems with wearing masks, and everyone is respecting the rules and procedures.”
Throughout the week, inspectors from the Delaware General Health District, who worked with the district to develop the reopening plans, toured the district and evaluated the new safety protocols.
Traci Whittaker, the health district’s public information officer, said Friday that health officials sent the following message to the district after the inspections:
“As we toured the building your social distancing, with physical markings, was in place according to best practices. Your signage to help the students/teachers remember to stay six feet apart was nicely visible. The students/staff/teachers all were wearing their face coverings, and, wearing them correctly. Their care for the students and each other was evident.
Please share our thanks with your team for all they are doing to help protect our community and reduce the risks during this challenging time.”
Delaware Group A students will return to class Tuesday.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.