West Delaware High School will open the second semester Thursday, Jan. 14 with a return to full-time in-person instruction after being on a hybrid schedule since late September.

“We’re really excited to get everybody back together,” said Superintendent Dr. Kristen Rickey. “Even though it (hybrid learning) has worked really well, there have been some problems. It’s been hard on students’ social-emotional health to not have those connections with their friends and teachers on a daily basis.”

With cases in Delaware County on the rise last fall, the district made the decision to go to the hybrid model at the high school, with students attending on an every other day basis.

“Early on, back in September, we had some very significant concerns about the number of students we were quarantining. We were following the rules of public health, and we were having to assist with contact tracing,” said Rickey. “In September, we had over 300 students quarantined since the beginning of the year. It was just unsustainable because we can’t get all of our students six feet apart because we don’t have enough space.”

“The high school was the biggest concern because that’s where we had the most students testing positive. We were seeing a lot more cases at the high school which meant we had to do a lot more quarantining there than at any other building. So, we decided to go hybrid at the high school so that we could move students six feet apart by only having half of them there at a time.”

“Before we went hybrid, we tried things like moving our large classes into the auditorium, but we simply don’t have enough alternate spaces. It was hard for kids, it was hard for teachers and it just wasn’t working, so with the cases increasing in Delaware County we chose to go hybrid.”

Though the hybrid model has been successful for the most part, now is the time to get back to in-person learning, according to Rickey. A change in public health guidelines should be beneficial once students return in force.

“In September, if you were within six feet of a positive case for more than 15 minutes, you needed to be quarantined. Since then, that has changed. If both parties are wearing a mask consistently, then you don’t need to quarantine and that has helped immensely,” Rickey said. “We initially set up the hybrid schedule for two weeks at a time, but we talked to our leadership team at the high school and they asked that we make a longer-term decision — so we did. We went to the end of the first semester, which is why Jan. 14 is the day.”

“It’s worked well, but it’s been a challenge. We’re excited to be back in person and I’m really grateful for our staff and families that made it work. We may have to go there again, and if we need to, we will. Our quarantines are significantly reduced, and every other day is better than not being there at all, but it’s been hard. It’s been hard to instruct that way and if you’re in a chemistry class, you can’t do an experiment at home.”

West Delaware students still have the option to go fully remote.

“The remote program, Edgenuity, is definitely quality instruction, but it’s not ideal. We prefer to have students on-site,” Rickey said. “For some families that just doesn’t work, whether because of health concerns, concern about the virus, or whatever it might be. So, we’ve offered them that option.”

“But at the high school, there are certain electives you can’t get remotely. You can’t do welding through Edgenuity. So, there are people who thought about it, but decided not to because you can’t get all of the courses.”