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Colonial School District adjusts to new hybrid learning initiative

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In order to deal with more than 20 teacher vacancies, the Colonial School District turned to an online option earlier this month.

Back-To-Basics is providing in-classroom instruction from a certified teacher via Zoom to about 900 students at William Penn High and another 230 at Gunning Bedford Middle School. However, the district says a staffer is present in the classroom to keep an eye on students and provide help when needed.

Colonial School District Director of Human Resources Holly Sage says students are adjusting well.

“These students are building relationships and rapport, not only with the virtual teacher, but also with that para or that tutor or that special education teacher that’s in that classroom,” explained Sage. “ Because we all have to remember that while students are learning math or science or English, whatever this virtual teacher is doing, they also have other things that are going on, and we have to be respectful of the whole child. So that’s also really important.”

Sage adds many students are used to virtual learning, so this set-up came more naturally than it would have before the pandemic.

And while the school year is off to a good start, it’s unclear how long the set-up will last.

Human Resources Director Holly Sage says they are actively working on solutions to solve the teaching shortage, but for now, Back-To-Basics remains the best way for students to learn from certified teachers.

“Right now we do have teachers… We have paraprofessionals that have been Colonial employees for many years. And we have some new people that are working through Wilmington, University of Delaware, and Del State that are in the para to teacher pipeline and teacher residency programs so that next year they will be ready to be teachers. But that doesn't help us now,” she said.

The Colonial School District is working to solve its teacher shortage, but there is no solid timeline as to when they’ll fill the vacancies, and that means Back-To-Basics instruction will continue indefinitely.

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and a graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021