Below is a letter from Wilmington Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand emailed to parents and guardians on Thursday night:
Dear Members of the WPS Community,
As you know, we have been committed to developing a plan for the reopening of our schools that included a ‘phased-in’ approach toward a hybrid learning model. At the forefront of this planning the following have been prioritized:
- The health and safety of our students and staff;
- Establishing a plan that aligned with the DESE guidelines and that includes more intense in-person time for our students identified in a high-needs category;
- Maximizing in-person learning each week for as many students as possible under the new guidelines while also offering the option of fully remote instruction.
Throughout these last few weeks, I have remained committed to this path recognizing that the overwhelming number of our parents/guardians were in favor of having their children back to school for in-person learning.
Unfortunately, I am writing to let you know that we must delay our phased-in approach for the hybrid model. The immediate drivers for adjusting our originally intended path are as follows:
- Staffing – there are concerns with the availability of staffing for in-person learning for all necessary positions. We have identified a number of staff who have recently indicated that they will be taking a leave of absence or not able to work in person. Opening school remotely allows us to ensure full staffing and provides us time to hire replacement staffing for when in-person learning begins. Please note that this situation has ultimately delayed the release of class-teacher placement information.
- Air Quality – the Town and Schools recently commissioned an independent engineering firm for the assessment of the HVAC systems of our eight schools and the report was delivered on September 4. The assessments deemed all buildings safe to occupy but identified recommendations for the optimization of our systems during a pandemic. One of the primary recommendations included installing portable HEPA filtration units in classrooms and learning spaces during the heating season when windows cannot be left open and when MERV-13 filters cannot be used. The high school has MERV-13 or higher filters, however, the remainder of our schools cannot support the use of MERV-13 filters. We have placed orders for almost 400 portable HEPA filtration units that are on backorder given the demand across the country for these units. We are being advised that the lead time is approximately five weeks.
- Negotiations – we are continuing our negotiations with the WTA regarding an agreement for our reopening.
Therefore, while school will still begin on Wednesday, September 16. we will be doing so in a fully remote model. The exception is that of our students who have been identified as ‘high-needs’, who will begin in-person instruction on September 21.
The revision to the original plan will now see us transitioning to a hybrid plan on or around October 14, but we will do so sooner if possible. This represents a two-week delay of our original plan, in which we had originally expected to start the hybrid model at the end of September. It also means that all students in Grades 1-12 in Cohorts A, B and C will receive the same amount of synchronous instruction each week. Students in grades Pre-K and Kindergarten will receive remote instruction in the half-day model and schedule as outlined in the cohort letters.
I recognize that this information will be difficult to receive by many and certainly holds the potential to adversely impact our families. Please know that making this decision to adjust our plan has not been entered into lightly; however, the circumstances currently before us make this change necessary.
Specific additional information will be forthcoming in the days ahead regarding class schedules, teacher placement and exactly how to prepare your child for the launch of the school year.
Superintendent of Schools
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