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Smyrna schools return to in-person learning Jan. 11 for students who chose hybrid plan

Ben Mace
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

For students who have chosen hybrid learning, the Smyrna School District will offer in-person classes again starting Monday, Jan. 11.

Students who chose virtual learning will continue with those online classes.

“Given all of the data now available about schools in Delaware, as well as our continued mitigation efforts to make our classrooms safe for everyone, we know that the best place for our children to learn is in each of our schools,” said Superintendent Patrik Williams in a letter to parents and students.

Students at North Smyrna Elementary respond to the teacher’s question during in-person classes in October. After switching to online-only instruction Dec. 7, the Smyrna School District is resuming the hybrid plan with a mix of in-person and online instruction starting Monday, Jan. 11, as recommended by Gov. John Carney, Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay and Secretary of Education. Dr. Susan Bunting.

Hybrid learning includes two days of in-person classes each week. Hybrid students have been divided into two groups, with one group attending school in person Mondays and Tuesdays and the other group attending in person Thursdays and Fridays.

On Wednesdays, schools are closed for cleaning, so only online instruction is available. 

“Of course, those families who have previously selected full virtual instruction will be able to continue in this model with no change," said Williams. "These times demand flexibility, and we will certainly continue to honor the instructional model that each family has chosen.”

Williams referred parents and students to the data on coronavirus cases in the schools, available on the district’s website, https://www.smyrna.k12.de.us.

“As always, please contact your child’s administrative team or any of us in the district office should you have any questions or concerns. We stand ready to assist you,” he said.

Recommended by state officials

The Smyrna School District is following the recommendation to return to hybrid instruction Jan. 11 by Gov. John Carney, Dr. Karyl Rattay, the Director of the Division of Public Health, and Secretary of Education. Dr. Susan Bunting.

In a joint statement Jan. 5, Carney, Rattay and Bunting said, “We do not believe there is a public health reason to close schools. We have spent the past four weeks helping schools try to address the operational challenges they are experiencing. And we can all agree that students learn best when they're in school. For all of these reasons, we are recommending that districts and schools make every effort to return to hybrid learning on Jan. 11.”

They said data from state epidemiologists shows that the vast majority of cases affecting students and staff originated outside of school buildings. The few cases thought to result from in-school spread are frequently observed to be in settings where mask-wearing was not consistently practiced, they said.

State education association leader questions decision

Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram expressed concerns about the governor’s recommendation and urged school district leaders to choose the best option for their district.

“I wish I could give a simple response to the governor’s latest statement; however, nothing during this pandemic can be easily answered. The short response is that the decision to stay remote or go hybrid remains a local decision,” said Ingram. “The options provided by the governor’s office are just recommendations. School boards and superintendents know their district’s capabilities and make the final decisions concerning their handling of operational, health, and safety concerns and whether they can continue or begin hybrid instruction.”

Ingram said community spread of the virus does impact schools.

“We keep hearing ‘in-person learning is best.’ But, with infection rates increasing, we have seen how the rate of teachers needing to quarantine and the lack of substitutes is affecting in-person learning. We do not believe that environment better serves our students than a consistent remote instruction would,” said Ingram. “We are asking school boards and superintendents to take a hard look at the spread in their communities, carefully consider future operational challenges, and work closely and collaboratively with their local unions before determining if bringing students back into school buildings is the best choice for their district. If there is doubt, we ask that schools remain in the remote setting for the safety of staff and students.”

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