Kennett School board gives superintendent authority to make COVID decisions11/17/2020 12:10PM ● By Steven Hoffman
The Kennett Consolidated School District’s school board voted unanimously to give Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey the authority to make Covid-19-related reopening decisions without having a formal meeting.
At the board’s Nov. 9 Zoom meeting, Blakey reported that the hybrid/virtual reopening of the schools with lower grades with morning and afternoon classes was progressing well. The next challenge was to open the secondary grades to a hybrid/virtual model.
Hybrid means students attend school in person for limited periods of time and work from their computers at home as well. Virtual means they work exclusively at home.
At the October meeting, the board had approved a Nov. 16 date for the secondary hybrid/virtual opening to happen. But based on the rapidly rising county rates of positivity in early November, the school board approved Blakey’s directive to hold off for two weeks until Nov. 30.
Blakey said he and assistant superintendent Dr. Michael Barber would be making future decisions based not completely on county metrics, but rather on the numbers within the geographical boundaries of the Kennett Consolidated School District and in consultation with nearby school districts and health agencies.
At the time of the November meeting, the COVID-19 positivity rate in the county was 85.82 per 100,000 residents, or a category of “very high” – indicating a recommendation of totally virtual instruction. However, within the district boundary, it was 40.77 cases per 100,000, indicating the recommendation of “virtual and/or hybrid.”
“This is a moving target. Our county is in the high range [but] if we stay low we have a better shot at keeping our kids in,” Blakey said.
Barber and Blakey agreed, however, that the school district levels of positivity could possibly rise into the “virtual only” level on the heels of the higher county levels.
“We’re happy to see our local numbers decrease, but based on what we’re seeing [at the county level] I’m not sure we’re going to stay there next week,” Barber said.
This was Blakey’s proposal:
-Continue on course to reopen secondary at “virtual and/or hybrid” on Nov. 30, keeping in mind that numbers might increase following the county;
-Maintain the elementary hybrid;
-Continue to monitor local and county data;
-Request that the board authorize the administration to modify reopening dates or return to and from remote as warranted by the metrics;
The board approved that resolution unanimously with the caveat that Blakey would inform them individually ahead of any future decisions.
Blakey, while clearly expressing hope for a hybrid reopening, said he was wary of having students return only to have to send them home a week later if the positivity numbers in the district change.
Mark Tracy, the assistant superintendent for business affairs, said the COVID pandemic had precipitated other problems. Among them are a lack of bus drivers and substitute teachers. He added that he was also dealing with contract issues for staff involving absence and leave time and instances where they had to stay home to take care of their sick children.
Editor’s note: On Nov. 16, the Chester County Health Department reported that the positivity rate for the county was 141.18, and the rate for the Kennett Consolidated School District was 77.84 – just three points shy of the virtual level.