Appoquinimink School Board

It's unclear whether there was actually a smell inside the room where the Appoquinimink School Board held a workshop Wednesday, but one board member let loose on the recent decision to allow fall sports to begin next week in Delaware.

Char Edelin, a mother of several athletes, including a former-all state football player, was the one member out of five who voted against allowing the district's athletes to compete this fall, but directed her venom at the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.

First of all, this plan is great. I appreciate this plan. I think the DIAA has given us a pile of poop that we have to deal with. I'll be honest with you, we are sitting here for the past three weeks, for 3-4 hours a night, trying to get these children into schools. Believe me, I am a parent of scholar-athletes, everybody in my house has 2-3 varsity letters to their name, but they are scholar-athletes. We can barely get them to school, and we have beautiful plans, we have great plans, we're doing the best we can to get them in school, but that's what we're here for. I'm tired of public school systems being 'the babysitters.. the food providers... and now the fun police, it's ridiculous.

I'm not saying this to anybody in this room, because this isn't your plan, but I need the public to to know I think this is a ludicrous idea, and we can't educate these kids. Believe me, I'll probably have to sleep in the car tonight because I have a fall athlete who is a senior, in her last season. But, my job in this seat for all of the parents and students in this district, and my own child, is to ensure that they get educated. As much as I love football, and everyone knows I love football, and basketball, and volleyball, and baseball, it's my favorite part of this job, but if we are sitting here for hours trying to make sure these students get what they need to be educated, how dare we talk about athletics?

I get it, athletics are important, I jog every day, it's good for your mental health, and I get kids want to get moving and socialize, and this, that, and the third, but not our job. Our job right now is to educate these students, and we are struggling to do that. And to ask us now, at this late hour, at this late hour, to justify putting somebody's baby on the football field and I'm not sure that he has all of the math that he needs, that is a terrible, terrible position to put us in.

Again, this isn't personal to anybody in this room. This is for anybody from the state who made these kind of decisions, let's think about it folks, they're scholar-athletes, they're not athletic-scholars.

While Edelin was the only member to vote against the plan, other board members expressed concerns about the guidance they did, or didn't receive from the DIAA, who just 12 days earlier flipped an earlier decision to delay sports until December and begin the fall campaign on Monday.

Norm Abrams said he wanted to see more details.

"There's bullets through this whole thing, What are we going to do if we have coaches or kids who aren't wearing masks? There's no stipulations in any of this on repercussions. I'm going to support this for all the right reasons..."

Board President Richard Forsten interrupted him, speaking to a recent push-back from parents about requirements from the DIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee on mandatory mask use during all but a few select sports.

"Kids are supposed to wear masks when they go back hybrid, and I expect them to wear masks. If they want to play sports, I actually think it's easier, because if you don't comply, you don't get to play, and if a coach isn't going to enforce the rules, he's not be a coach for very long, but I expect our coaches will enforce the rules because they know it's important, and quite frankly, we don't have a choice about following them or not."

Michelle Wall also voiced concerns about the quick logistical challenge the DIAA put all schools under, but repeated an argument similar to one made by the DIAA to the State Board of Education last Thursday that there's a level of advocacy in place.

"I'm not saying as an individual board member, or a collective board, that your kid has to play sports. We're saying we see value in it, and we're providing an opportunity, in the same way we see value in in-class instruction, we're pushing for hybrid because we're not allowed to push for anything else yet."

Appo's three high schools are hoping to offer varsity, JV, and freshman teams, but they could be limited by other Blue Hen Conference schools choosing to go varsity-only, or just varsity and JV.

Before the sports debate, the board spent two hours discussing the latest issues in attempting to get the district's students back to some in-person learning by the goal of October 19.

Appo's hybrid plan features a split of in-person and remote learning for just about all of their students.

At this point, 3-year-old students be in person 2-3 days a week, with 4-year-olds attending school all week, all within the 9:00-12:45 window. Virtual learning days would take place from 1:30-3:30.

K-5 students would either be in class Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday, with everyone being remote with a teacher on Wednesday. Remote learners would get three virtual days with their teacher, with the rest being pre-assigned work.

Middle and High School students would have a similar split of in-person and remote days, in a school day that would run until around 3:45 or 3:50.

Students would have access to all of their core teachers each day, with independent work due by 9:59 p.m. to prevent students from being up all night.

One particular concern as the district tries to finalize its hybrid plan is formulating a bus strategy. The district put our a survey asking its parents if they wanted their children to learn remotely or hybrid, and whether they could transport their kids to school without a bus.

65% of K-5 parents chose hybrid, 52% in middle school, and 62% in high school.

Those choosing remote would be locked into their choice for the six-week period, although another survey will be released before the intended switch to a full-day hybrid plan, at which point a change of mind would be permitted.

Stacey McIntosh, Supervisor of Transportation Services, said there isn't much margin for error, as she has to put together bus routes based on 23-person caps, meaning if there is a day someone in hybrid who didn't request a bus suddenly needs one, that could be a problem.

"We have to have students assigned seats both AM and PM, so unfortunately that student walking to the end of the driveway won't be able to just jump on. They're going to have to request it, and it's going to take a little it of time for us to find a seat, but we certainly will try and assign them at that time."

Appoquinimink Lead Nurse Yvonne Camac told the board that there would be no temperature checks at the doors, saying it's not recommended by the CDC in a mass gathering situation, but rather families need to be aware of the symptoms at home, and that there is no checklist in place.

"There's no list kept for the self-screening. It's just education, having families understand and educate them on this daily routine of what they should be looking for, and if they say yes, their student should not be sent to school."

Camac added the district needs help to try to nip any potential virus spread, in case there is a COVID-19 case at one of their schools.

"It's really important that we have parents and staff contact the school if they learn about a positive case, because that can really expedite the implication of infection-control measures."

While the district still locks in how to get students into school, Board President Forsten emphasized that teachers have done a fantastic job in adjusting to the challenges of teaching in a virtual world.

"We are getting a lot of emails from parents, and I have not heard one negative thing about a teacher, only praise."

As of Tuesday, there remain just three traditional school districts in Delaware -- Cape Henlopen, Seaford, and Woodbridge -- operating in a hybrid model. Vo-Tech school Polytech is also hybrid, along with six Charter Schools. Several to most private schools in Delaware are shifting into full in-class models.

Delaware's current reopening guidance issued by Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Education will not allow public and charter schools to go full in-class until the state's positive COVID-19 testing rate dips below 3.0%, or there are fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people in Delaware.

Last week's numbers were 7.1% and 75.0.