Gov. Carney closes schools for remainder of the school year

Schools will continue remote learning for the remainder of the school year and physical buildings will stay closed, Gov. John Carney announced in a press conference Friday.

“We expect that schools and teachers would finish out the last two months as they have been with remote learning and get as much instructional time and learning with their students as possible,” he said. “There’s obviously no replacement for in person instruction in classrooms, in terms of the relationships and the services. But obviously, doing what we can between now and the end of the school year, we want to get as much benefit for our students as possible.”

Gov. Carney encouraged district and charter leadership to plan for summer learning and summer food distribution.

Without missing a beat, school districts and charters throughout the state began releasing information as soon as the announcement was made, with some, like Lake Forest School District, issuing an automatic call to familaies and others, like Cape Henlopen, Capital and Caesar Rodney school districts, sending out letters.

Alison May, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said that school districts will continue to follow their individual remote learning plans.

“As there are needs for modifications, they will submit them to DOE,” she said in an email. “We will continue to update our website with links to the most recent versions.”

She added that district/charter “remote learning plans are designed to complete the school year by June 30.”

According to several letters released by districts, DOE will create a team of stakeholders to plan for the rest of the academic year, assess transition and “then continue to adjust and transform practices for the return to school for the ’20-’21 school year once public health officials determine it is safe to return.”

“I don’t think any of us were surprised that the Governor elected to extend the closure,” Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows said in a letter. “I appreciate the certainty the announcement brings. As sad as it is not to go back this year, we can now move forward from a position of strength in our planning and decision-making processes.”

In his remarks, Gov. Carney acknowledged with the closure, the traditional graduation for seniors will not go on as planned.

Ms. May said that graduation ceremonies are being planned at the local level, as each district has its own calendar, and there is variety in dates for graduation celebrations.

Cape Henlopen Superintendent Bob Fulton said in his letter the district would look toward a virtual commencement ceremony for seniors, as many higher education institutions are planning at this time.

“We have been, and will continue to, discuss and plan the various details related to our commencement ceremony and other programs related to graduation,” he wrote.

Appoquinimink plans to coordinate work groups of parents, students and teachers “to create new traditions that will celebrate our Seniors while honoring social distancing constraints,” the letter said.

In his remarks to families, Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald said that while the decision impacts all students, it is especially affects seniors.

“So let me assure them that we remain committed to making the celebration of their senior year a memorable one,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, Covid-19 and the need for social distance will result in modifications to our commencement ceremony, the high school administration is working diligently on the plans for their ceremony.”

Schools have been closed since mid-March. Gov. Carney originally ordered them to close for a two week planning period, before extending that to May 15. Districts began rolling out remote learning through the end of March and this month.

Since closing, districts and charters have worked to distribute technology like laptops and iPads and ease difficulties with internet access for their families. Food service has also continued during the closure.

DOE — and other entities such as Scholastic, Boy Scouts and more — have released learning and enrichment resources to keep students engaged during the closure.

Though remote learning initiatives are underway, the plans differ for each district or charter; many have taught review. With school only continuing remotely for the rest of the year, plans for grading and teaching new material is now on the table.

“In anticipation of a possible extension to the school closure, our staff have been diligently working behind the scenes to adjust our existing high school Remote Learning Plan,” Polytech Superintendent Amelia Hodges wrote in a letter. “The revised plan allows for new learning and graded assignments. This change is needed to ensure that students continue to earn course credits during the closure.”

At the state board of education meeting earlier this month, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting explained that districts and charters assessed student needs locally.

“Each local education agency, district or charter, has decided upon a path that will take students in that particular system forward,” she said at the time. “We have to trust superintendents that … that particular plan is being enacted in each of the districts.”

Ms. May said that, with schools remote through the rest of the year, DOE is continuing to provide support and coordinate collaboration between districts and charters.

“Likewise, we continue to communicate and share best practices with our counterparts in other state departments of education,” she said. “Across the country, educators, families and students are learning and growing through this unprecedented challenge.”

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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