Wicomico Schools Extend Virtual Learning Until Feb. 2

SALISBURY – Citing recent health metrics, Wicomico County Public Schools will continue with virtual instruction through Jan. 29.

In a message sent to families on Tuesday, Wicomico County Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin announced a delay in the school system’s return to hybrid learning. While the first wave of students was expected to return to the classrooms on Jan. 19, Wicomico County Public Schools updated its Return to School Action Plan this week, with hybrid in-person instruction for all grades set to begin on Feb. 2.

“All students will now continue with virtual instruction through January 29th, the end of the first semester,” Hanlin said. “We are now hopeful to have hybrid in-school instruction for all grades starting the week of February 2nd. Should this new target date be feasible based on the health metrics, teachers and all school-based staff would return to schools as of January 25th to continue to prepare. I will update everyone the week of Jan. 19th on our Return to School Action Plan.”

Due to COVID-19 heath metrics, the school system temporarily rolled back in-person hybrid learning in November with the hope of returning to in-person instruction on Jan. 4 for prekindergarten through eighth grade and Feb. 2 for high school.

In December, however, Hanlin announced a change to the Return to School Action Plan, moving the return date for the first wave of students from Jan. 4 to Jan. 19.

“When I reviewed the health metrics during the December 8th Board meeting and we set January dates for in-person learning, Wicomico’s positivity rate was at 5.96% and the new case rate per 100,000 was 36.26,” Hanlin said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the current positivity rate is 13.97% (4th highest in the state) and the new case rate is 52.53 – both rates are far above the recommended levels for in-person learning, even on a limited basis for small groups.”

In her announcement this week, Hanlin said, “The Health Department agrees that with community COVID-19 numbers this high, now is not a safe time to re-establish the broad network of staff, students and families that makes in-school hybrid learning possible,” she said. “Each and every person involved in education in Wicomico County wants nothing more than to have face-to-face learning in the classroom again. Unfortunately, Wicomico County’s current COVID-19 numbers do not allow us to continue with our planned dates to have hybrid learning for Prekindergarten through 8th Grade starting the week of January 19th.”

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.