By Mike McClure

The Laurel School District’s hybrid back to school plans were discussed during the Laurel School Board meeting on Wednesday, March 17. One parent spoke in favor of having students back in the classrooms five days a week after Superintendent Shawn Larrimore released a video announcing plans to have students in schools two to three days a week starting after spring break and continuing into the fall, unless the state’s current restrictions are lifted.

Marcy Hollis, a parent of three children in the district, thanked teachers for their efforts to teach students remotely. She added that she had hoped the district would follow other school districts in the county (Seaford and Cape Henlopen) in having at least four in-person school days for each student.

Hollis said she believes having the majority of learning on screens is not good and that her children have no interest in virtual learning. 

“There are children in this community that are not always safe at home,” said Hollis.

She also questioned why a decision was already being made about next school year. Hollis added that she believes learning days should be increased to four to five days a week for all students, not just the students of staff members.

Dr. Larrimore said he would love for all students to be in school five days a week, but he said the director of the Department of Public Health has indicated that the current restrictions (no more than 23 students on a bus and no closer than three feet in the classroom) will probably not be lifted by the start of the next school year.

Larrimore said the Laurel School District is in line with most other school districts. He also indicated that he would be willing to come down from having students six feet apart to three feet apart if he has to, but that it is up to the Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office to change the restrictions.

“We all have our eye toward opening just as soon as we can, as many students as we can, as safely as we can,” Larrimore said. “Until the restrictions are lessoned we don’t predict we will be back fully.”

In a video announcement release prior to the school board meeting, Larrimore announced the back to school plan, which will begin on April 19 and will continue into the fall. Students will be put in two groups. Group one will attend school Mondays and Tuesdays and every other Wednesday and group two will attend school Thursday and Friday and every other Wednesday. Remote students will be able to continue to learn remotely if that’s what their parents decide.

The new schedule will increase student in-person learning days from two to five days over a two week period. Larrimore encourages families that can drive kids to school to do so.

At the beginning of the meeting, School Board member Jana Pugh said she is looking forward to having kids in schools five days a week.

 “I think that’s where they really need to be. They learn a lot better in the school, they need that camaraderie,” added School Board member Shane McCarty.

Director of School Nutrition Services Julie Gibbons reported that in one year of feeding efforts during the pandemic, the school has served over 200,000 meals to Laurel children, mostly curbside.

North Laurel Early Learning Academy principal Dr. Stephanie Smith said 22 of the school’s 66 students are coming out of remote learning and into hybrid learning.

Laurel High School principal David Hudson announced that the school is looking to get students more involved and increase engagement.

“We definitely have a strong desire for more students on more days of the week,” he added.

The high school will be offering a credit recovery program for students starting after spring break. Hudson also said that eight to 10 percent of remote families have committed to moving to hybrid learning.

The next Laurel School Board meeting will take place on April 14 at 7 p.m.

Editor’s note- U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona was slated to visit Laurel Elementary on Wednesday. More on this in next week’s Laurel Star.