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At-home classroom: Appo plans for 'worst case scenario'

Amanda Parrish * Delaware
aparrish@doverpost.com
Middletown Transcript

Many U.S. governors are considering indefinite schools closures. Appoquinimink School District officials are planning ahead in case that happens in Delaware. 

They are exploring options for long-term learning at home as the COVID-19 virus pandemic escalates.

Kalia Reynolds,executive director of teaching and learning, said multiple departments are meeting every day to figure out what would work best for all students and teachers depending on how long school could be closed.

“It’s frustrating for everyone because no one knows the length of time [schools will be closed],” she said. “We are planning for the worst-case scenario, but also additional scenarios.” 

She said they are working on individual plans for one-month, two-month and indefinite cancellations.

Gov. John Carney announced March 13 that all schools would close from March 16-27. Superintendent Matt Burrows said he expects schools to be closed longer

“This does look like it will go beyond the two weeks,” he said. “I don’t have confirmation on that yet, but just looking at the national stuff it does look like that.”

The Appoquinimink Board of Education will meet March 25 when Burrows will give an update to the board March 25 about the coronavirus and how it will affect the schools for the rest of the year. He said it’s likely he will know by the meeting if the closures will be extended and how long. 

Carney is in constant communication with the superintendents, but the decision to close schools is up to the governor, Burrows said.

Issues

Although online learning might seem like the likely option for the at-home classroom, Reynolds said they still have to figure if this style of learning is a viable option. She said many Appo families and staff members don’t have internet access or electronic devices. 

“That’s one of the things we are taking into consideration. We are working with our [internet provider] partners to provide internet access for students and families,” Reynolds said. “We are going to look to see what options they have to see how they can help families who can’t afford it or live in areas with poor services.”

She said they are also trying to figure out how to deploy devices to students who don’t have them. 

Burrows said the district gives students in grades 3 through 12, but the training on them has been for in-person classroom learning and homework assignments. They have not been trained to use them for 100% online learning. 

The district is following orders from the governor and the Department of Education, Reynolds said, but they are also being intentional about planning for the families they support.

Other than lack of internet access, she said they have to consider the needs of students who are English-learners, whose families don’t speak English, who have special needs and who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP). 

“We are trying to look at perspectives from multiple lenses,” Reynolds said. “We are considering the needs of access, making sure whatever we do is equitable for all.”

Survey

During the week of March 23-27, Appo staff will prepare for the virtual delivery of lessons. They will need approval from the Department of Education to deliver in this format, according to a letter sent to Appoquinimink families.

The Teaching and Learning Team developed a brief survey about the access of technology at home. The survey was sent to families March 20. The district asked families to complete by March 23. 

The survey is online. Those who don’t have internet access will be asked to complete it on the phone. 

Plan development

Reynolds said they are working with all 19 Delaware districts and analyzing models from other states and countries to see what can be applied to Appo. 

“It’s not like there is a unique scenario or circumstance that is only impacting one school or district or state for that matter,” she said. “We know our education system is different when we look at other countries, but we definitely want to harness those great ideas and see what is viable for us.”

Reynolds said the district will keep families informed of their plans as more information about the length of closures becomes available. 

“We can’t communicate anything prematurely,” she said. “We don’t want to put something out without having a little more to go off of.”

Burrows said they are waiting on guidance from the Department of Education to make any formal decisions.

“It’s like Apollo 13,” he said. “We got to land this thing in a very short period of time and figure out how we are going to get to the ground.”