Delaware working groups to plan return to school buildings

Working groups to plan return to school buildings

By Brooke Schultz

Delaware State News

WILMINGTON — With a focus on health, equity and operations, the state announced Monday three COVID-19 working groups that will advise the Delaware Department of Education on how to reopen schools in the fall.

School buildings have been closed since mid-March; Gov. John Carney officially announced in April that schools would continue instruction remotely for the remainder of the year.

The working groups — which focus on health and wellness, academics and equity, and operations and services — consist of professionals ranging from those in education, to pediatric psychology, to students, to members of the General Assembly.

“I am pleased with the expertise these members bring to this important effort and look forward to their guidance on the key issues that Delaware’s superintendents and charter school leaders must consider before re-opening their buildings,” Gov. Carney said in a prepared statement.

The groups will make final recommendations to DOE in July, according to a news release.

Following the recommendations, the working groups will continue to meet through September, or as Dr. Bunting determines; DOE will provide staffing support to the working groups, a news release states.

The Health and Wellness working group is chaired by Mike Rodriguez, associate secretary of DOE, and Meghan Walls, pediatric psychologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. The group will consider the “impact of social and emotional distancing and the importance of employing science-based practices to help students return safely to a new normal, prepared to learn,” Dr. Walls said in a prepared statement.

Academics and Equity, chaired by Monica Gant, associate secretary of DOE, and Ashley Giska, assistant superintendent of Laurel School District, will look at the logistics of supporting students academically and equitably.

“The innovation coming from all of our schools in such a short span of time has been truly inspiring,” Mr. Giska said in a prepared statement. “I am certain we can create a robust path forward for all students in Delaware to grow and thrive as learners in this new environment.”

Operations and Services is chaired by Chuck Longfellow, associate secretary of DOE and Oliver Gumbs, director of business operations for Cape Henlopen School District.

The working groups come as schools have been under some form of remote learning for about two months. Last week, Gov. Carney suspended end-of-year evaluations for educators, professional development requirements and assessments due to closures stemming from COVID-19.

The modification to the state of emergency included waiving the required learning hours for students and teacher days. With this modification, school districts and charter schools must still complete remote learning plans that were submitted to DOE.

While buildings have been shuttered, districts have served meals, provided technology and access to wifi to students. Work is underway for what graduation ceremonies will look like for the Class of 2020.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Gov. Carney marked June 1 to begin Phase 1 of reopening the state.

The state of emergency declaration, including the stay-at-home order and its other modifications, was extended through May 31.

While some restrictions have already loosened, others will remain in place. Come the beginning of June, people still must cover their faces in public and practice social distancing, with large gatherings still prohibited.

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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