On Friday, December 4, Milford School District announced that students would transition back to a virtual learning model as recommended by the State of Delaware. On Thursday, December 3, Governor John Carney issued a recommendation that school districts pause hybrid learning until January 8.
“Milford School District will continue with its hybrid learning model next week for Pre-K through grade eight students,” Trish Gerken, Public Information Officer, said. “These students will return to full remote learning on December 14 and are expected to transition back to hybrid learning on January 11 as recommended by the State. Milford High School will follow its hybrid learning schedule on Monday, December 7 and Tuesday, December 8 prior to returning to full remote learning on December 9. MHS Cohort A students will attend school on Monday, December 7 and MHS Cohort B students will attend school on Tuesday, December 8. MHS is expected to transition back to hybrid learning on January 11. Individual schools will provide further information next week to families.”
The announcement was met with mixed messages from parents with children in Milford School District.
“Very disappointed in this,” Courtney Davis said on the district’s Facebook post announcing the decision. “There is zero reason to close for a month for Christmas. The schools need to be open five days a week like the private schools are. So sick of my son not getting the education he deserves.”
Sarah Leon echoed Davis’ comments, stating that she felt this would put many children even further behind academically.
“Not all parents have the luxury of daycare or family to be on the computer daily with their children when the parents have a full day of work,” Leon said. “These kids need some type of normalcy in this pandemic.”
Jessica Jones, who has two children in Milford schools, asked the district to consider other options for special needs children.
“Yes, I know COVID is real, but children need to be in school,” Jones said. “I know my daughter can handle it but my son is a totally different story. As two parents that work full time jobs and teachers being done teaching at 3:30, my son will no be able to do remote learning unless daycare does it, but guess what? He needs one-on-one help and that just can’t be provided for him at the daycare. I know it’s my problem and I will figure out how to make it work, but it’s still so upsetting.” Jennifer Allen Branham mentioned concern for the mental health of children who are unable to physically interact with others as well as the confusion with the back-and-forth decisions.
On Tuesday, December 1, in his weekly press conference, Governor Carney stated that schools should remain open as evidence showed the virus was not spreading among school children or staff members. The new recommendation was made just two days after the press conference, frustrating many parents.
“Since September, 576 students and staff in public and private schools have tested positive,” Governor Carney said. “There are over 60,000 students participating in some form of in-person learning in Delaware. It’s a testament to the hard work of students, educators and staff that the number is so low. And data from our epidemiologists show that the vast majority of those 576 cases originated outside of the school building. So students are learning. And they are doing so safely. And that is thanks to our educators. But I take equally seriously the implications of ignoring the science. We can’t hang on to old facts that don’t meet current realities. We have to adapt and adjust, just like we’ve asked educators to do.”
Governor Carney’s statement continued that there is not really a public health reason to close schools right now and that he believes strongly that children learn better in person. However, he also stated that it was a complicated world and a complicated time.
“Educators, school nurses and administrators need a chance to figure those challenges out and regroup,” the statement read. “And the Division of Public Health can use this time to retool and streamline its school-related procedures. School personnel are not immune to the effects of rising community spread and as more school personnel are forced to quarantine, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to operate.” The statement then recommended that schools return to remote learning until January 8, but left the ultimate decision up to each school district.
Rita DiDolce applauded the district’s decision to take a break until mid-January, believing this helped the community as a whole.
“I know it’s hard on the students and staff and parents,” DiDolce said. “Our behavior as individuals and community dictates school closures.”
Cindy Popelas who has four children in Milford schools commented that their experience with remote learning has been positive, praising the teachers for going out of their way to help during this difficult time.
“Every teacher, 14 in total, was more than willing to answer my messages after a few hours to help us,” Popelas said. “It took us a few weeks to get the hang of where to find assignments and when we realized one of our kids was struggling, teachers were more than accommodating to reopen assignments so we could go back and look at them again. We had to put in long hours in the evening because we work full time, but every single teacher was understanding and worked with us when we simply ran out of hours in the day and needed extra time. I am grateful for every teacher in the district who is working hard to make this work. I fully support this pause in hybrid learning to help our community as a whole.”
Governor Carney asked parents to keep their children safe at home in the same way teachers were keeping them safe in school.
“Avoid indoor playdates, avoid sleepovers, avoid birthday parties outside your family, avoid carpooling without masks,” the statement read. “We’re entrusting our educators with the health and safety of our children. It’s a weighty responsibility. It’s a big job. They’re working extremely hard in extremely difficult conditions. They need our support and your help. Please be patient. And most important of all, join me in thanking them.”
Milford School District’s Winter Break begins December 23 and ends January 4, 2021.