The Delaware City Schools Board of Education discussed what would be necessary to return to all-in education during its meeting Monday.
Superintendent Heidi Kegley told the board that over 70% of district staff received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, and they are scheduled to receive their second dose of the vaccine on March 6.
Kegley told the board the vaccine will take two weeks after the second dose to reach full effectiveness. She added when the district agreed to receive the vaccine from the state, it committed to in-person learning, which the district has been doing for all but three weeks of the school year.
Kegley said she and district staff will continue to work with the Delaware Public Health District to monitor the pandemic in the schools.
“We are continually looking at our data, looking at what’s happening in schools and looking at what’s happening in our Delaware city community to see what we should be doing differently, how we can change, and looking at our learning model,” Kegley said.
She went on to tell the board she’s “very comfortable with what we’re doing,” and the district is seeing a downward trend in numbers.
The board asked Kegley to discuss a possible return to “all-in” education where students from both cohorts would begin attending classes together again. Kegley said there are many preparations that would need to be made, and the health and safety protocols would need to be followed and enforced in order for it to be possible.
Kegley said state testing poses a problem because the district has already crafted “extensive schedules” for students to safely take their tests on the hybrid model. Besides testing, she said there are many areas around the district that would need to be examined and evaluated before all-in instruction could happen.
“We would need several weeks to make that change,” Kegley said. “We would need to look very carefully at our staffing and our class sizes.”
Board member Matt Weller said the district can’t just return to all-in education because of the vaccine.
“There’s some thought out there that just because the vaccine is being administered that it suddenly means that we’re good to go, full-time, all-in, and that’s just not the case,” Weller said, adding he believes the district should “take every effort” to be back full time.
Board member Ted Backus said that realistically, students wouldn’t theoretically be able to return to all-in education until after spring break, leaving only a month-and-a-half of education before summer break.
“I do believe there would be some benefits,” Kegley said. “We know this has been difficult, and we also know that we are doing our best to ensure the health and safety for all.”
The board asked Kegley to begin making preparations to return to all-in education, but it set no time frame for doing so.
“I could not make this happen in the next few weeks,” Kegley said. “…We would need to look at everything. We will need to look at what bringing (cohorts) A and B together will look like at each individual grade level and each individual teacher.”
Student board member Mackenzie Collett asked the board to give students time to prepare and said students have spent time creating schedules around school, work, extracurriculars, and other activities.
Collett added it would be beneficial to start the planning process, even if the district doesn’t return to all-in education this semester because it would give them a head start on plans for next school year.
Kegley said the DCS Online Academy would remain in place for the rest of the school year. Board President Francis O’Flaherty asked if families that were comfortable with the hybrid model would be able to move their students to the online academy if they were uncomfortable with the return to all-in education. Kegley said that would not be possible since the families’ commitments to in-person learning or the online academy were semester-long commitments.
Also during Monday’s meeting, the board held a brief presentation in which Kim Miller-Smith, the central regional manager for the Ohio School Board Association, honored Tammy Cain, Delaware’s assistant supervisor for transportation and food service. Miller-Smith said Cain worked to keep students fed during the pandemic, and Cain coordinated more than 1,000 meals each day.
“(Cain is an) exceptional employee,” Miller-Smith said. “(Cain) created a plan for our district to provide meals for our students during the time our schools were closed due to the pandemic. The knowledge Mrs. Cain has, both in transportation and food service, were invaluable when it came to the overall coordination and scheduling.”
Miller-Smith then presented Cain with the Exemplary School Employee award.
O’Flaherty thanked Cain and said the board “can’t say enough about how much your help was appreciated by the community and us.”
The next board meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 1.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.