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Red Clay Consolidated School District’s hybrid reopening plans continue to vex parents and that could lead to changes in the coming weeks. 

Since the district announced its hybrid model about a week ago, outcry from dissatisfied parents has pushed the board to schedule an emergency board meeting on Oct. 15. While no agenda has been posted, board members say the intention is to vote on the hybrid plan. Before, the district had released the plan without seeking board approval. 

However, the deadline for parents deciding between in-person or virtual learning is this Friday, meaning parents must make a decision before the board officially votes on the plan. 

DATABASE: Help The News Journal track COVID-19 in Delaware schools

“Schools will reach out to families who have not enrolled in an option by Friday,” said district spokesperson Taylor Green, when asked if students would be automatically enrolled in one of the options if families do not respond by the district deadline. 

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Approximately 30 Red Clay parents and teachers protest a move that would give remote students less time with teachers Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in front of the Red Clay District Offices. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal)

Under Red Clay’s current plan, students would have the choice between four days a week of in-person learning, or continuing with virtual learning. 

Virtual learning, while graded by Red Clay teachers, would be run through a third-party online education website, Accelerate Education. The learning platform offers a “more independent, self-directed learning experience,” the district said in a message to parents. 

PAST COVERAGE: Red Clay’s hybrid learning plans leave parents with more questions than answers

The district has offered few details about the program. In an hour-long Zoom call with families on Sunday, Superintendent Dorrell Green answered questions, but most parents said they felt their concerns have gone largely unanswered. 

About 30 parents and students gathered outside the district office on Tuesday, calling for the district to delay its hybrid reopening plans until it can offer an alternative to Accelerate Education. 

Parents torn between virtual and in-person learning are questioning the quality of the online education, worried their children will have no live interaction with a teacher. 

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To Sachiko Lewis, who has two children at Cab Calloway School of the Arts, it feels like the district is “farming out” her children’s education. Lewis has chosen in-person learning for her children, so they can continue to have their same teachers. 

“I’m still struggling with the decision,” she said. “I feel like I’m a bad mom either way. I’m having to choose between putting my kids’ health at risk, or giving them a subpar education.” 

Red Clay’s plans come as districts across the state plot out a transition to hybrid learning. 

UNEVEN TRANSPARENCY: What people don’t know about COVID-19 in Delaware schools

Over the past six months, the district has surveyed parents for preferences between in-person and virtual learning to plan for the transition. 

At the start of the school year, families didn’t know what to expect come October. Some assumed students could use Zoom to watch live lessons being taught in the classroom, but the district is unable to accommodate that, the superintendent has said. 

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Approximately 30 Red Clay parents and teachers protest a move that would give remote students less time with teachers Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in front of the Red Clay District Offices. (Photo: Jerry Habraken, Delaware News Journal)

Parent rallies and petitions have cropped up across the state as families try to find more normalcy in reopening schools. In September, parent pressure pushed the state to change course and approve the start of fall high school sports. 

Families in Middletown and Dover have gathered outside district and state offices in protest. Only unlike Tuesday’s Red Clay families, they called for school reopening, rather than continued virtual learning.

In just over a week, a petition against Red Clay’s hybrid plan had gained over 2,000 signatures. 

Throughout the school year, The News Journal will be compiling a database of positive COVID-19 cases connected to schools. Has your school notified parents of positive cases? Email Natalia Alamdari at [email protected] to help us keep track of COVID-19 in schools. 

Red Clay parent Joe Corruba said the district would put his family’s health at risk. With a seven-year-old recovering from leukemia, returning to school would pose too great of a risk. 

“The district keeps saying, ‘it’s your choice.’ It’s not a choice for me,” Carrubba said. “The online option is taking away my child’s place in the classroom. It feels like they’re getting taken advantage of because they have a medical disability. Having a teacher four days a week versus zero is not equal.”

Natalia Alamdari covers education for The News Journal. You can reach her at (302) 324-2312 or [email protected]

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