SALISBURY – School system officials this week announced plans to return all students to the classroom in a hybrid model by Feb. 1.
On Tuesday, Superintendent Donna Hanlin presented the Wicomico County Board of Education with the school system’s plans for bringing all grade levels back into the classroom on a hybrid schedule by the second semester.
“All of this is subject to change based on health metrics or other factors in our community,” she said.
On Oct. 5, small groups of students – including English language learners and those in special education, career and technology education, secondary math tutoring and some Advanced Placement science labs – returned to school in small numbers as part of the school system’s ongoing recovery efforts.
As of this week, Hanlin said, roughly 600 students have returned to in-person instruction. And on Oct. 19, prekindergarten students will join the first group, returning to the classroom in small numbers four days a week.
“We believe strongly our youngest students need that foundation of being in the school buildings,” Hanlin told board members on Tuesday.
On October 26, kindergarten students will return to the classroom in a hybrid model, with either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday in-person instruction and virtual instruction on Wednesdays and on days a student doesn’t attend in person. That same week, students receiving daily special education services will also switch to the same hybrid schedule.
On Nov. 9 first and second grades will return to school in a hybrid model, with third through fifth grades following on Nov. 30.
And while middle and high school students will not return to the classroom until after the new year, Chief Academic Officer Rick Briggs noted their virtual schedules will be extended in the weeks prior to their return.
“In order to help them acclimate themselves and their sleep schedules, they will resume a more traditional schedule from like 8 to 3,” he said, “understanding that they will not be engaged online the whole time.”
Beginning the week of Jan. 4, sixth through eighth grades will begin a hybrid schedule. And on Feb. 1 – the first day of the second semester – high school students will begin a hybrid schedule.
But Hanlin noted that parents will have an opportunity to choose for the student to participate in hybrid learning or to continue with all virtual learning.
Several weeks before a grade level would return to the classroom in a hybrid schedule, parents must inform the school system if a student plans to participate in hybrid learning and if they would be using school transportation. They must also provide a signed COVID-19 parent/guardian agreement.
“A hybrid schedule will be assigned by household, school and transportation needs to ensure social distancing,” she added.
In the hybrid model, Hanlin said students and teachers will bring their laptops and chargers to and from school each day, and masks must be worn from arrival through dismissal and on school buses.
In addition, schools will adhere to strict cleaning and physical distancing protocols, and meals primarily will be eaten in the classroom.
“Meals this year will be available free of charge to all students,” she said.
For more information on the school system’s return-to-school schedule, visit wcboe.org.
“Essentially by Feb. 1, all students will be back in school – if they so choose – in a hybrid model subject to health metrics,” Board Vice Chair Gene Malone said.