Carney orders public, charter schools closed for two weeks

DOVER — Gov. John Carney directed Delaware’s public and charter schools to close for two weeks starting Monday to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Schools will be closed from March 16-27.

“Based on the current status of coronavirus in our state, the Delaware Division of Public Health has not recommended that we close schools. This virus could be with us for many months and closing schools may have negative effects for our children, and for parents who must work to support their families,” Gov. Carney said in a letter to schools. “Nevertheless, out of an abundance of caution, I am directing Delaware public schools to close …”

“Over the next two weeks, the State of Delaware will work with school leaders and public health experts to create a plan for Delaware students and educators as this coronavirus outbreak continues,” said Gov. Carney in an email late Friday. “We will specifically prepare for the potential impact of extended school closures on Delaware children and their families. Public school leaders should also undertake a deep cleaning of their facilities during the two-week closure.”

The closure comes after several schools shuttered this week, including Laurel School District, Great Oaks and Kuumba, to deep-clean in the face of the virus.

Polytech High School dismissed students and staff members at 11:30 p.m. Friday so the district could “perform a deep cleaning of our facility,” a message online stated.

All Sussex Technical School District high school students, Adult Education students, and 10-month staff should not report to school over the next two weeks. Twelve-month staff will be notified of their work schedule.

During this time, all district activities and events, including athletic events, have been canceled. District custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect all contact surfaces on campus.

“We thank our school community for their patience and understanding as we navigate this challenging and highly fluid situation,” said Sussex Technical Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. “We believe that this temporary closure is a good step forward in addressing family concerns and mitigating against future spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile, University of Delaware announced it would close student housing facilities for the semester, with online/remote learning to begin March 23. Students on campus must vacate by March 17, officials said, and other students by March 22. A letter to the community said the university would make accommodations for students who cannot return home due to international travel restrictions or serious personal reasons.

The closure stemmed from the state’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 this week.

A total of four cases have been announced and all involve University of Delaware students — two graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher. The students had contact with the first test-postive individual at an off-campus social event in February. That result comes from a faculty member over age 50 who was exposed to a confirmed case of the virus in another state.

In Delaware, a total of 72 individuals have been tested for COVID-19, including the four individuals who tested positive for the disease, officials at Delaware Public Health announced Friday. Thirty-six tests returned negative results, and 32 people are awaiting test results, officials said. DPH is monitoring 54 individuals.

Delaware State University asked students who are currently on spring break to refrain from returning to campus until Sunday, April 5. Delaware Tech extended spring break through March 22.

Wilmington University moved all in-person classes to online beginning on March 16, though university offices and services remain open.
In a letter released to the campus community Friday, Wesley College announced it will begin online courses on March 16 and encouraged students to move home in the next few days.

“In Delaware, we currently have no evidence of community-based COVID-19 and all cases are related to a single-exposure event,” Gov. Carney said. “But we understand there is broad public concern, and the urgent need for preparation.”

Those concerns include providing food to students who receive meals through the district, as well as providing educational opportunities during closure without relying on internet access.

“Delaware children deserve a world-class education, and ongoing access to services that are delivered in our schools each day. Many students – especially those from disadvantaged communities – also rely on school meals for nutrition, and other important social services,” Gov. Carney said. “We will be working with districts to plan for providing learning opportunities and other meal and social services in the event of an extended closure.”

Capital School District put out an all-call to staff to modify part of its professional development day Friday to determine how to proceed if schools were closed, as was announced in Maryland Thursday afternoon.

On Facebook, Caesar Rodney noted that in event of a closure, “teachers will use the Schoology platform to provide supplemental materials and lessons to students.”

Appoquinimink Friday sent home an activity sheet with students that targeted subjects such as English/language arts, math, science, social studies, world language and related arts. The materials are intended to complement lessons that students have already explored in the classroom. The work is for about 14 days of activities.

“Participation would be considered voluntary, but strongly suggested – much the same way we operate our Summer Reading Program,” a letter posted to the site reads. “There is no thought to attach grades or tests at this time.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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