Wicomico Schools Push Back In-Person Learning Dates

SALISBURY – The first wave of Wicomico County public school students will return to the classroom in a hybrid model on Jan. 19, two weeks later than originally scheduled.

In a meeting of the Wicomico County Board of Education on Tuesday, School Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin announced a change in the Return to School Action Plan.

Citing recent health metrics, students in prekindergarten through eighth grade will not be returning to hybrid in-person learning on Jan. 4. Instead, they will return the week of Jan. 19.

“Teachers will now return Jan. 11 and students in Pre-K through Grade 8 will return on the 19th of January,” she said, “so a two-week shift after the holidays.”

Due to concerning trends in community health metrics for COVID-19, Wicomico County Public Schools late last month announced its return to virtual learning until after the winter break. The plan, unanimously approved by the school board, temporarily rolled back in-person hybrid learning on Nov. 17 with the hope of returning to in-person learning on Jan. 4 for prekindergarten through eighth grade and Feb. 2 for high school.

Hanlin told board members this week the transition back to in-person learning depended on Wicomico County’s positivity and case rates. She said the county must report a positivity rate below 5% for seven consecutive days and a new case rate below 15 per 100,000 for seven consecutive days.

And while county positivity rates have declined in recent days, Hanlin noted that the new case rate was well above the school system’s threshold.

“With that in mind, I continue to be concerned about the metrics and the potential return immediately after the holidays,” she said.

Based on current health metrics, Hanlin told board members this week that students in prekindergarten through eighth grade would return on Jan. 19. High school students are still set to return in a hybrid fashion on Feb. 2.

“Safety has to be our priority, and of course we will be learning virtually in those two weeks,” she said.

Hanlin’s announcement received the support of school board members this week. Member Tonya Laird Lewis said she was concerned about administrators and staff returning to school buildings immediately after the winter break.

“We need to support the teachers, administrators and coaches, and I think this would be best for them,” she said.

Board member Ann Suthowski agreed, noting the importance of teacher and student safety.

“Even though I would love to have them back on the fourth, I think we’d better reconsider,” she said.

To view the school system’s revised Return to School Action Plan, or its COVID-19 dashboard, visit www.wcboe.org.

“We appreciate everyone’s patience as we deal with this moving target,” Hanlin said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.