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New cadets return to First State Military Academy

The public charter school will open for all students in a hybrid plan Sept. 8

Emily Lytle
Dover Post
First State Military Academy freshman Dayvon Martin arrives for his second day of New Cadet Orientation on the Clayton campus. FSMA is following CDC and Delaware Department of Public Health guidance in maintaining social distancing and strictly enforcing face coverings.

First State Military Academy, a public charter high school in Clayton, opened its doors to all the new cadets Aug. 27. While the new cadets have extra training through the first week of September, all other students will return to school in an optional hybrid model Sept. 8.

The plan for now is to have cadets come into school one day and work from home for the rest of the week. All cadets can choose a completely remote option. 

Commandant Patrick Gallucci said the school is prepared to make changes. “Of course, we knew going into this, you can’t always plan for everything, but you can have flexibility [in] your plan so you can adjust it,” he said. 

In the first days back, upper-class cadets have been helping the new cadets as they learn the ways of the school, where all students are members of the Marine Corps JROTC program.

First State Military Academy freshmen Michael Gale and Roy Gwak line up to start their second day of New Cadet Orientation.

All cadets wear masks on the buses and in the school and only remove them while eating, Gallucci said. Once the cadets get off the bus, they are broken into groups, and they stay with that cohort all day. This will make it easier for the Division of Public Health to contact trace if any cadet gets sick.

“It’s going well,” Gallucci said in an interview Aug. 28. “Today is going much smoother than yesterday.” He said the adjustment has been a challenge, but First State Military Academy’s leadership was ready to take it on after overcoming the challenges that came with starting a brand new school five years ago. 

“Now that we’re in this current environment, and we have to totally change the way we have to do things as a school, it was hard, but we’ve already done it,” he said. 

Since early July, school staff spent several weeks discussing possible reopening plans. Then, after Gov. John Carney gave the greenlight to hybrid learning, the board of directors voted to adopt the hybrid plan in the Aug. 11 meeting. 

Before that decision, Gallucci said the staff had to make sure they had enough cleaning supplies to sanitize the building every night. The school bought sprayers, wipes, sanitizer and plexiglass for the classrooms. 

First State Military Academy has 466 cadets this year, representing areas from throughout New Castle County and Kent County. 

Gallucci said the most intimidating part is the unknowns. “It’s going to be a challenge,” he said. “What we have to do is we can’t relax, and we can’t go into old ways. We have to stay vigilant everyday. We have to be prepared for all the unknowns out there.”

First State Military Academy freshman Lacy Wynne crosses the Clayton campus to start her second day of New Cadet Orientation.

Message to families

First State Military Academy shared the following message with its community:

"We are better together.  

First State Military Academy is a cadet-led program that requires personal responsibility on the individual to ensure success for all cadets in the school. Our environment rewards honesty, integrity, teamwork, and commitment with the expectation of all cadets to adhere to our mission and purpose, to develop respect for themselves, those they depend on, and those that depend on them.

We will need to perfect these principles in our current environment as we open in a hybrid model in overcoming the challenges in implementing our plan during this school year. Personal responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 while we are in session. We need your help to ensure that our cadets reduce their exposure, by reinforcing the wearing of masks, washing hands often, and following social distance protocols of six feet. These steps are necessary for all of us to stop the spread of the virus. We all need to be proactive in reducing the risk of transmission. Your support is much appreciated."