The Delaware City Schools Board of Education voted Monday to begin next semester with remote learning but return to the hybrid model after one week.
The board moved all education to remote learning in November in anticipation of an increase in cases following Thanksgiving. On Monday, the board met to discuss the start of next semester.
Superintendent Heidi Kegley said Monday that the lack of staffing and staff absences were the main motivation for the move to remote learning. She added if the district reaches 15% staff absences, it would be at “a critical point” and would not have enough coverage for classrooms. Kegley said right after the district made the decision to move to remote learning in November, the district reached 15% absences.
Kegley recommended to the board that it keep all education remote from Jan. 4-8 and return to the hybrid learning model on Jan. 11.
She said the district will continue to work with the Delaware Public Health District to evaluate the data on a week-to-week basis.
“We know that these are hard decisions. We also know that they effect our families and our staff in very different ways, but it’s our job to make sure we are making the best decisions for all,” Kegley said. “We do not know what the next few weeks hold. We do know it is important, if it is safely possible, which we know we can do with the health and safety protocols we have in place, to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11.”
Kegley praised the adaptability of staff and students in the district and said they’ve done “a remarkable job” moving to remote learning.
The board unanimously voted to adopt the plan and keep student remote from Jan. 4-8 and return students to hybrid learning on Jan. 11.
Student board member Mackenzie Collett voted “yes” on the plan, adding it provides “a good medium” between safety and returning students to school. She said the move to remote learning had been “a bit overwhelming,” but teachers, at least at the high school, have stepped up to the challenge of remote teaching.
“Teachers really have gone out of their way to make sure the style of the teaching and the tools they are using really works for that subject,” Collett said.
She added it was “helpful” that students were still on the hybrid schedule because students were familiar with it. However, she’s looking forward to returning to the hybrid model.
“While it is going well and teachers are giving it their all, for some classes you can’t replicate being in the classroom,” Collett said.
Additionally, Jason Sherman, director of facilities and transportation, gave the board an update on the construction projects within the district that started earlier this year.
Sherman said crews have finished putting on a new roof at Carlisle Elementary School, which is undergoing renovations to increase safety in the front office and add new classrooms. Sherman said the classrooms and office are about finished, and the renovations should be completed by February.
Dempsey Middle School is receiving a new wing of classrooms, and Sherman said the first and second floor concrete has been poured for the extension. He said the roof will be added in February/March. Dempsey is also receiving an extension to the east end of the building near the athletic fields that will add concessions and a bathroom. Sherman said that addition should be completed by the time spring sports begin.
Schultz Elementary School is also getting a new wing of classrooms, and Sherman said he hopes the classrooms will be finished by spring break so teachers and students can be moved into them and renovations can begin on the current office area, which is being expanded. The entire renovation is expected to be completed by the 2021-2022 school year.
“Very exciting time in the district as we see some of these projects come out of the ground and get finished,” Sherman said.
The board also approved the resignation of Sue Ustaszewski, a fifth grade teacher at Schultz.
The board will meet Jan. 4 for its yearly organizational meeting.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.