As the cliche goes, “the rubber met the road” this week as public school districts got the yellow (caution) light from the state for a blend of in-class and remote instruction.
Unlike the signal at the intersection, this yellow light seems destined to stay on for a while.It’s understandable, given our desire for a degree of normalcy, the lack of a national strategy, and a social divide over something as elementary as face coverings.
In moving forward, school districts and the state received a lot of feedback came from parents who had to guide their offspring last spring through a system of remote learning that was built on the fly.
We also have the issue of the digital divide that turned into a chasm in recent months for those with low incomes.
Now, school districts are faced with formidable and some might say impossible challenges that include dealing with capacity limits on school buses, classrooms of varied size and configurations, and even isolation areas for students who come down with symptoms and can no longer hang out in the wellness center until parents arrive.
Red Clay, the state’s largest district, opted to start out in the remote learning mode for a six-week period.
Meanwhile, the Christiana School District is circling the airport. The district will open a week later than originally planned and will make an announcement in the near future.
Based on Newark Post coverage, the Christina Zoom school board meeting had its share of controversy, with a petition from the teachers union urging a delay for in-person instruction.
Recent events have also highlighted a fundamental weakness with the structure of public schools in the state.
While local control of schools is a valued American tradition that dates to our rural roots, it makes no sense that a state with the population of a mid-sized metropolitan area has nearly a dozen and a half districts, not to mention a host of charter schools.
Countywide districts make a lot of sense, especially at times like these. In the past, the focus of consolidation efforts has been on the cost side. A few years ago, an appointed group that barely looked outside the state line somehow determined that consolidation would not save money.
Left out of the equation was the difficulty of districts with limited resources in dealing with extraordinary situations. Granted, the state has tried to do its best, but dealing with so many districts is a mind-numbing exercise.
While the process of reopening schools would be extraordinarily difficult in any situation, Delaware’s school district system makes the task far more daunting.
It may have taken a pandemic to demonstrate the need for a major overhaul once things get back to something approaching normal
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