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Appo schools report 39 COVID cases among students, staff since hybrid learning began

Amanda Parrish
Middletown Transcript

Appoquinimink School District has had 30 positive COVID-19 cases among students and nine among staff since hybrid learning began Oct. 19, Superintendent Matt Burrows said during the Board of Education meeting Nov. 10.

Of the students, 23 are hybrid learners and seven are fully virtual. Eighteen students and five staff members have been cleared of COVID. Due to privacy concerns, he did not say how the students or staff were infected and what role the staff had in the district.

“I am not going to sit up here and say that those numbers are low. If you take the percentage of them, they are low, one is one too many,” he said during the meeting.

Since hybrid learning began, the schools have had 8,000 students and 12,000 staff members back, who are all required to wear masks. Desks are socially distanced and shared supplies are kept to a minimum.

Burrows said he has been asked how many cases would cause the school to close. He said the district stays in contact with the Department of Health and Social Services on a regular basis to take advice on “what the path forward is.” The department keeps track of positive cases within schools and the community and would give them a recommendation based on its data.

Protesters organized by Stand Up Delaware urge the Appoquinimink School District to make in-person learning an option in September.

During the weekly COVID press briefing, Middletown and Townsend were two towns considered “areas of concern” for increased positive cases.

Based on data collected from the state, it’s likely most or all cases were not spread in schools.

Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director, said during the governor’s weekly COVID-19 briefing Nov. 10 the spread is not primarily happening inside schools. Most cases are coming from eating indoors together or informal social gatherings, such as sleepovers or parties where social distancing and mask wearing were not followed.

Gov. John Carney was asked if he would consider closing schools again, but he said the plan is to get more kids in school, not less, but he said he would consider more restrictions to limit the spread of COVID in the state.

CONTACT TRACING:Appo schools using QR codes to track staff for COVID contact tracing

Appoquinimink schools are expected to remain in the hybrid model until 2021, unless the state recommends otherwise.

The district has continued to receive complaints from parents about not returning to school full time, but Burrows emphasized that they have to follow the guidance given to them by the state, which only allows them to open for hybrid learning because of social distancing requirements.

HYBRID LEARNING:‘It’s like the first day of school all over again’: Appo students, teachers return to buildings

“You may see, there are a few districts in the state that have been able to bring in certain groups four days a week, but you have to remember we are a growing district … We do not have the same space that other districts may have,” the superintendent said. “As soon as the guidance allows us to, we will look to move to a five-day-a-week model.”