Gov. Carney says schools can stay in hybrid mode
Despite the Capital School District moving completely back to remote learning, Gov. John Carney still believes schools in the state are safe.
Capital made its decision after recent COVID case numbers in Kent County pushed two of the state's three school reopening indicators into the red in Kent.
The indicators the state uses to guide school reopening are the new case rate per 100,000 people, the 7-day rolling average of positive tests and average daily hospitalizarions per 100,000 people
The new case rate is well over the "red" benchmark of 100 in Kent, standing at 277. And the 7-day rolling average of positive tests is now over the "red" level of 8, sitting at 8.3 percent. The average daily hospitalizations are at 15.1. 25 would put it in the red.
But Carney said at his weekly COVID press conference Tuesday those numbers may be skewed by a lower testing rate.
"We've seen a run up lately in the percent positive of those tests are being administered. We're not administering as many tests as we should be probably, or not as many people are being tested in Kent County as should be tested,: said Carney. "So we're encouraging Kent Countians to avail themselves of testing so we can have a good handle on that."
Carney added he believes schools can still safely operate in hybrid mode since the state still isn’t seeing any significant spread of the virus in school buildings.
"The spread happens outside of schools that affects the operational needs of schools and classrooms," said Carney. "We also know that teachers, students, and staff are doing a great job following the restrictions operationally right now."
Carney notes the bigger concern is a school’s operational capacity if staff tests positive and quarantines, leaving the school shorthanded.
The state had indicated that if two or more indicators went “red” statewide schools would return to full remote learning. But Carney said Tuesday that it’s not quite that cut and dry.
"That particular dashboard was not meant to automatically signal that schools be closed once it passed that threshold, although that certainly was the impression that was given. So, we'll need to work through that, really talking through what's acceptable and safe from a public health and from a medical perspective and operationally what's doable and what's doable with respect to the support of teachers, staff, and parents."
Carney notes other factors like school compliance with social distancing and mask-wearing and transmission levels within school are also considered.
The rising COVID-19 indicators in Kent County are drawing a mixed response from school districts. Like Capital, Caesar Rodney is moving to a virtual format until Dec. 9, and developing a long-term plan. Milford is also going back to full virtual teaching while assessing how long it will stay there. But Lake Forest, Polytech, and Smyrna are sticking with their hybrid plans.
The largest state teachers union, the Delaware State Education Association, continues to express its concerns about how the state is handling school reopening, specifically demanding the state be more transparent about cases connected to First State schools.
“Stop telling us and start showing us by sharing all data and information regarding positive cases connected to schools, the results of contact tracing in terms of the number of identified close contacts required to quarantine and a clear indication of whether any transmission is occurring within our schools,”said DSEA president Stephanie Ingram in a statement.
DSEA also wants districts to halt any expansion of hybrid learnung "until our data returns to more acceptable levels."
Statewide, only one of the three reopening indicators is currently in the "red." That's the new case rate, which stands at 337.7. The percent of postive tests is at 6.1 and daily hospitalizations is at 19.2.
The state revisits the data weekly each Monday.