Governor directs schools to close through May 15

DOVER — Gov. John Carney Monday ordered all public schools to close through May 15 in response to COVID-19.

That directive extends his original two-week closure that would have ended March 27.

“We have spent a significant portion of the last week discussing plans for remote instruction, the delivery of meals, and other social services,” Gov. Carney said in a prepared statement. “This is an unusual time – but children still deserve access to a quality education, and families rely on the social services we deliver in our schools every day. We’ll continue to work directly with school leaders on these important issues.”

In his announcement, Gov. Carney said schools will work with their staffs to create remote instruction plans so students can continue learning.

He added that no school district or charter school should extend its school calendar beyond the end of June in order to make up lost time. That recommendation formally will be made by Education Secretary Susan Bunting to the State Board of Education upon submission by each district and charter, Gov. Carney said.

The state also has submitted a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education requesting Delaware be exempt from state testing this year.

He added that, if possible, the state hopes students will be able to continue with “instruction, wraparound services, extracurriculars and sports experiences once school resumes.”

Gov. Carney noted that DOE created a list of learning activities at www.doe.k12.de.us/covid19.

Districts have begun to prepare for a new normal when it comes to academics.

Alison May, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, has said that school leadership will receive guidance from DOE.

Because of a lack of equity across the state when it comes to digital access, Ms. May has said the state education department was not recommending fully online-based remote learning.

Dan Shelton, superintendent for Capital School District, said that his district’s goal is to get their juniors and seniors to graduation.

For those students without access to technology, they were able to pick up devices at the high school. Dr. Shelton added that the district is working with Comcast and other internet service providers to get free or inexpensive internet service to support families without access.

“The big thing is making sure that they have the ability to continue,” he said.

As the district begins looking toward what it will mean for a long term closure, Dr. Shelton said their intention is not to do a completely online learning system, especially for the younger grades.

Before the initial two-week hiatus was announced earlier this month, Dr. Shelton said that educators came in for a professional development day and put together packets of information. The district sent home learning activities last week and this week, with about two weeks worth of work.

Another set of activities, which is “more robust,” he said, will go out at the end of this week or early next week.

Other school districts likewise prepared materials in the event of a closure. Appoquinimink School District sent students home with three weeks of review materials before schools were asked to shutter earlier this month. Lake Forest, Woodbridge and Caesar Rodney, as well as other school districts, released packets for students as the break went on.

While delivering meals to students last Monday through bus routes, or asking parents to come by last Tuesday to collect food, Academy of Dover handed out review materials for their students.

The charter school also had teachers create Facebook pages and Youtube channels to push information out that way, said Michele Marinucci, head of school.

“Even our students that have the least ability to access technology seem to have access to Youtube,” she said.

Dr. Marinucci, and other districts, worked with special education teachers to create packets for students with Individualized Learning Programs, known as IEPs.

For his district, Dr. Shelton noted that the first set of activities were integrative, with special education teachers and English learner teachers working with regular teachers on the activities.

For the Kent County Community School and preschool programs, he said that materials were custom-made and were delivered individually. Buses ran their normal after school routes to deliver materials to every home, he said.

“We want to keep things moving,” he said.

In a letter released to parents and staff on Monday, Cape Henlopen School District Superintendent Bob Fulton said that plans were underway to get students set up for remote instruction.

The district planned on sending out a telephone survey Monday evening to glean family’s access to technology.

Mr. Fulton urged families to answer the call and the two questions, as, he wrote, “this information is critical to planning for virtual learning.”

“Further, we are working hard to answer all of your questions and address your concerns,” he said. “We are awaiting guidance from state and federal officials on other items and we will update you at a later time.”

Appoquinimink School District posted a similar update, noting that they plan to launch remote learning on March 30, “pending approval from the Delaware Department of Education.”

Beyond education, school districts are working on other areas where they support students.

Over the past week, school leadership rallied to have more than 100 meal delivery and grab-and-go locations set up across the state by last Wednesday.

In his letter, Gov. Carney said meal services are to continue.

As students and their families picked up lunch last week from Caesar Rodney’s Allen Frear Elementary School, Paul Rodgers, child nutrition supervisor, said that the district was prepared to offer meal service for an extended time.

Dr. Shelton of Capital agreed.

“Now that it’s organized, we know what we need,” he said. “That’s just going to get easier, not harder.”

His district has given out nearly 1,000 meals a day, he said.

“It’s been everybody working really hard to do what’s best for kids,” he said.

With Gov. Carney’s announcement upgrading Delaware’s state of emergency to a stay-at-home order coming just a day before the schools extension, Dr. Shelton said that details are still coming together, like what will happen with graduation and other programs.

“We appreciate all [the community’s] patience as we try to navigate this,” he said, noting that this wasn’t something anyone planned or anticipated. “We need their help, too. The faster we shelter in place and do what we’re being asked to do and follow the recommendations, the faster we can get people healthy, put this thing to bed and get kids back to school.”


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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