The Delaware City Schools Board of Education voted Tuesday to move all instruction online beginning Nov. 30 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the schools.
The decision came at the end of a special board meeting held at Willis Education Center and livestreamed via the district’s Facebook page.
During the meeting, the board discussed the status of the district and met with Delaware Health Commissioner Shelia Hiddleson. She said cases continue to climb in the community, but Delaware City Schools has not seen very much spread because of all the safety guidelines in place.
Hiddleson added the spread isn’t coming from the schools but is coming from gatherings attended outside school.
“It’s a lot of things like, ‘Well, I went to a slumber party, or at a wedding, or at a rally during the political season,’” she said. “Our message to our community right now is number one: ‘We can’t let up.’ We are seeing the spread despite what we have in place. We need to be a little bit more careful in those casual settings. If you’re going to get together … wear your masks. I know nobody wants to wear their masks in their home, but it really does help.”
The board discussed the chances of a spike in cases due to family gatherings during Thanksgiving, and Hiddleson said a spike would be likely because health officials saw similar spikes after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Hiddleson strongly discouraged families from going house to house on Thanksgiving to visit all of their relatives because if a member of the family contracts the virus, the entire family at each house is in danger.
Board member Ted Backus said the district and central Ohio in general is facing a substitute teacher shortage, which makes filling staff absences more difficult. He added aside from the safety of everyone in the district, the “biggest concern is can we deliver what we are required to if the virus does not slow down.”
In order to keep kids in school, Backus said people must wear a mask, social distance, and elect not to attend parties and weddings.
“If anyone is on (social media), you’ll see people who you know in the community who are out going to events and doing things that you know is contrary to providing them safety from this virus,” he added. “That’s really the only way it’s going to change is if people are going to start following those directions.”
Board Vice President Frances O’Flaherty agreed with Backus, adding district staff has done a good job of containing the spread at school.
“Administration and staff have done a fantastic job, and it’s so much work,” O’Flaherty said. “Every day it’s more, and it wears people down. I feel like as responsible members of the community, we need to be doing everything we can to help the community. I think that we need to look at slowing down the spread as much as we can, and if we can do something to help with that we need to do that.”
The board discussed several potential plans of action for the rest of the year but ultimately settled on moving all instruction at all schools to virtual instruction beginning Nov. 30 through winter break.
Backus said he sympathizes with families who want to keep the schools open, but he said it’s only possible if the spread of the virus is contained.
“I can’t say it enough. I feel you when you say, ‘We want our kids in school.’ We all want that,” Backus said. “The reality is the only way that can continue to happen is if people follow the guidelines. That means everyone has to follow those guidelines. You can’t follow the guidelines on just certain days or when you feel like it.”
Backus added the district wants to see the number of cases drop in the county and following the guidelines is the best way to keep students in school or even get students back to school five days a week.
“You put that mask on every day, you keep the social distancing, you don’t go out and attend functions, events and sleepovers,” Backus said. “That’s what has got to happen. That’s not just for Delaware City Schools. Everyone in this world is going through the same thing. We are all being told the same thing to do, and we just need to follow that. Our goal is to get students back full time at some point in the future where it’s back to normal, but unless we beat this virus, that’s not going to happen either.”
The board voted to amend the agenda and add an action item to move the entire district to all virtual after Thanksgiving break. O’Flaherty, Backus, as well as Jayna McDaniel-Browning and Michael Wiener voted in favor of the decision to go all virtual. Board President Matt Weller voted against going all virtual.
The board will meet Monday at 6 p.m. for a regular meeting.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.