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Red Clay modifies online option and choice deadline amid parent outcry

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
A Red Clay Consolidated School District parent holds a sign that reads, "Zoom until it's safe," at a protest earlier this week

Following a parent protest earlier this week, the state’s largest school district has modified the online offerings for its next phase of reopening.

Phase 2 of the Red Clay Consolidated School District’s reopening plan is set to start for most students at the beginning of next month. 

Red Clay families were initially given the option to send their kids to school in-person four days a week, or have them do self-directed online school through a third party platform called Accelerate Education. 

All Red Clay parents were supposed to choose between in-person and online learning for Phase 2 by Friday night — but the District extended that deadline for most families until next Friday, Oct. 16. Families in special programs such as Meadowood and Autism building-based rooms must still choose by Friday, Oct. 9. A special board meeting about the Phase 2 plan is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15.

A group of parents rallied in front of the district offices Tuesday, calling the Accelerate Education offering “canned education,” and saying they were being forced to choose between two bad options. 

The district then announced it had modified the online option for kindergarten through 5th grade to more closely resemble what students are getting now: Zoom classes with Red Clay teachers.

Jessica Wolf’s 5-year-old daughter goes to Linden Hill Elementary. Wolf was planning to send her back in person, but has now opted for the online learning with a Red Clay teacher. But she says she still has questions. 

“[The District] didn’t clarify whether it would be the Accelerate Education, that online program that they’d be using," she said. "I’m assuming and hoping that it’d be the curriculum that the kids going in-person will be getting.”

District spokeswoman Taylor Green did not address a question about which curriculum kindergarten through 5th grade students will learn online with Red Clay teachers, but said in an email Thursday the interactive option will be "similar to what students have now."

The District has written on its website that online students may be supported by a different teacher than they have now. Subjects other than English and Math may be taught in an asynchronous format. The District has also said students enrolled in the online Accelerate Education program will be assigned a Red Clay staff member to “monitor and support their online learning” through synchronous check-ins and regular office hours. 

The District said on its website Thursday that 10,000 families had already chosen between online and in-person school for the second marking period. Families who have already submitted their choice can change it until the deadline on Oct. 16.

Wolf says Zoom classes have been working well for her daughter but have put a strain on the family. Wolf’s husband has been helping their daughter with online school while working from home. 

“It’s very stressful and it’s definitely been impacting his work,” Wolf said. “So I can’t even imagine if we had to do the Accelerated Education without any teacher help. It would just be impossible for us.”

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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