The Christina School District has yet to announce its plans for the fall, but Superintendent Dan Shelton hinted in a letter to parents that the district may be leaning toward online-only classes.
“We realize that the remote learning option may be the only appropriate route based on the current conditions,” Shelton wrote Saturday. “However, our committees are now determining the criteria for each phase of our re-entry plan. Please rest assured that our strategies are focused on the safety and well-being of our staff and students and that we will be vigilant to ensure our community remains healthy.”
He said the district’s reopening committees are close to finalizing their recommendations, and a decision will be announced “as soon as possible.”
“We believe that taking the time to ensure the plan is fully developed is an essential component of ensuring safety and that our students are receiving the highest quality educational experience they can for each given circumstance,” Shelton wrote.
Officials have ruled out a fulltime return to classrooms but are deciding between 100 percent online schooling or a hybrid model, in which smaller groups of students trade off coming to school for a couple days a week and doing online learning the rest of the time. Earlier this week, Gov. John Carney authorized schools to use a hybrid model, but the final decision rests with each school district.
The school board delayed the start of the school year until Sept. 8 to allow for more time to prepare teachers for whatever changes are implemented.
Shelton’s letter comes amid growing pressure from teachers to avoid any in-person classes, at least to start the school year.
In a statement released Friday, the local teachers union, the Christina Education Association, called for the district to make a decision quickly.
“Our school board has had four months, surveys, emails, discussions, and very clear messages from CEA and DSEA of a return #OnlyWhenItsSafe, and yet we have heard no hint of taking action on any of the plans which have been created. We appreciate the delay of the students’ return, yet there are unanswered questions as to how we will all safely return,” the statement read. “The daily stress of not knowing and trying to be prepared for all possible outcomes is draining, and frankly, unfair. You have a duty to the people of the Christina School District.”
At a board meeting Tuesday, several teachers pleaded with the school board Wednesday night to move all classes online this fall.
“It is not safe to open yet,” said Paula Hutton, a teacher at Brookside Elementary. “It can be made safe, but it's impossible to do that before teachers are scheduled to return in 19 days. I speak for hundreds of teachers who are afraid for their lives, their students’ lives and all of the families.”
The CEA also presented a petition arguing that in-person classes should not resume until there are 14 days with no new coronavirus cases in New Castle County or a vaccine is developed. Following those standards would mean that education would be online for the foreseeable future, as the county is averaging more than 50 new cases each day.
Already, the Red Clay Consolidated School District has decided it will start the year completely online. Colonial School District has announced that high school students will attend school remotely, while younger students can choose either in-person or remote learning.