Ocean City could be on to something new and exciting with its modified Winterfest of Lights event. Though I suspect officials will want to return to the drive-thru tram ride concept next year if it’s deemed safe, a smaller walk-through concept might be something to consider in future years.
I personally prefer this year’s pedestrian concept, but recognize it limits older people who might not be able to traverse the park. There could be an opportunity for the town to offer both in some capacity. There will be logistical issues to consider, but it’s worth some thought because this year’s walk-through event is being welcomed and seems to be favored by some, especially young families. Young kids like being able to walk around the park and see the lights up close in a safe manner. Perhaps next year the town can create a smaller walk-through area in addition to the larger tram ride portion. It could be a hit.
Commenting on our album of photos posted on Facebook, an individual put it well. He wrote, “Although it has been scaled back, our family enjoyed the walk through version better than the tram. It was nice to walk and stop to see all the details at our own pace. The ‘selfie stations’ placed throughout were also a nice touch and provided awesome back drops for family pics. Great job to all involved for adapting and keeping the tradition alive! Only thing missing this year was the parade.”
Some concerns were heard this week over all 14 public schools in Worcester County mandating in-person COVID-19 training for all personnel before the holiday break. Asynchronous learning will take place for students on the day teachers participate in the training since they will be unable to lead their classes online. Each of the 14 schools will have a different day for the training.
Though some teachers were perplexed over gathering in large numbers at school when in-school instruction was deemed unsafe last month, Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor addressed the importance of the training in an interview this week. He said it was imperative for teachers because the current safeguards and protocols in place to minimize infections among the student body and personnel go against the grain of how teachers typically interact with their students.
“… One of the tough things for teachers, our teachers do a fantastic job in educating our kids. And one of the things as a teacher that you learn as you’re going through your teacher training is close proximity to kids and being in close proximity,” said Taylor. “Everything that they we’re trained to do, we’re asking them to do the opposite and stay six feet apart from kids. And that’s a challenge. So through these trainings, we are providing information, we’re providing scenarios so they can see how firsthand this can be done when they go into a school. And so I think one of the things that I wanted do as superintendent, as we prepare for this, really what I call the second round of bringing our kids back, is to give our teachers the tools and the necessary information to do a job and to keep themselves and our kids as safe as possible.”
Allowing for local discretion is critical when it comes to managing schools during this pandemic. Statewide mandates are unacceptable because each region has varying severities of data.
Fortunately, as of mid-day Thursday at least, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said he will not issue statewide school restrictions. In Delaware, Gov. John Carney went the other route last week, recommending strongly a pause of in-person learning beginning Dec. 14 through Jan. 8 at schools facing “significant operational challenges” with social distancing students, rising case results and struggles with personnel quarantine. Carney also instituted a “stay-at-home advisory” and a “universal indoor mask mandate” effective Dec. 14. He warned further restrictions are likely in the near future. It was interesting to me Carney issued these recommendations at his Dec. 3 press conference to take effect on Dec. 14. These dates seem arbitrary to me. If the governor finds the situation to be so dire to institute these changes, an 11-day wait period seems counterintuitive.
Either way, Cape Henlopen School District, which manages schools in the coastal Delaware region, turned some heads last week when it did not adhere to Carney’s advice. I liked the stance as well as the transparency message from Superintendent Robert Fulton.
“Since the beginning of the school year, we have had 49 positive COVID-19 cases. This is out of approximately 5,000 students and/or staff involved in our in-person or hybrid reopening model and equates to less than a 1% positive rate,” Fulton wrote. “During that same time period, and for precautionary purposes, we had to quarantine 27 staff members. That number is out of more than 1,200 total staff working in our schools. It is also important to note that none of the 27 staff members who we quarantined tested positive for COVID-19. … the Cape Henlopen School District will continue to operate under our in-person, hybrid, and remote models of instruction, the same models we have been following since the beginning of the school year. We will not be following the recommendation of the Governor to pause hybrid instruction due to significant operational concerns, because at this point, we are not experiencing them.”