Indian River board members push for timely start to school year

MILLSBORO – Indian River School District school board member James Fritz has an important message he’d like relayed to Gov. John Carney and Delaware Department of Education Secretary Dr. Susan Bunting.

“Our kids are losing valuable educational opportunities that is going to cause the suffering to them and to the economy for many years … down the road. I don’t think the educational system can afford to have kids not starting back in school in the fall,” said Mr. Fritz. “It is my hope that the administration in communication with Dr. Bunting and DOE and our glorious governor, would portray the need for schools to start on time.”

James Fritz

On Monday, Gov. John Carney and Secretary Bunting announced a public strategy for a safe reopening of Delaware school buildings.

Three COVID-19 School Reopening Working Groups will advise DOE, Delaware school districts and charter schools on ways to safely and effectively reopen Delaware school buildings.

In April, Gov. Carney, through a state of emergency declaration, closed Delaware public school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year due to the coronavirus threat. Schools in Delaware were initially closed in mid-March.

“You look at the seriousness of the current situation, and yes, we have some deaths that have occurred,” said Mr. Fritz. “But we have children’s minds that are in the process of being developed that are going to be missing serious instruction time that they will never be able to get back if they are kept out of school on a continued period of time.”

Mr. Fritz commended all employees of Indian River School District, noting the job with online learning and with breakfast/lunch program during school closure.

“However, Sussex County has never done the proper job in setting up broadband, so the majority of our kids quite frankly don’t have access to the proper communication system to even tune in online on a regular basis,” said Mr. Fritz. “The number of kids that are participating is low compared to the number of total kids that go to school in our district.”

Mr. Fritz said learning has to continue.

“At some point, life has to go on. We have future lives to educate and train. To me that it is important, and I hope in all conversations with Dr. Bunting and the governor, that would be my feelings I hope are portrayed,” he said.

Indian River School District Superintendent Mark Steele agreed.

“Mr. Fritz, I can tell you all 19 districts are in about the same boat. Presently, we really feel we need to start back in September. We need to start back,” he said.

With the loss of two-plus months of the 2019-20 year Mr. Steele said there was hope at one point of even coming back the first of August to get a jumpstart on next year.

“But that would have required a lot of moving parts to get done. I think everybody on this Zoom including parents and everyone else are all wishing the exact same thing,” said Mr. Steele.

“I hope everything gets ironed out. I hope they come up with vaccine or whatnot and I hope we are moving forward. Because this is not the way to do school. I will tell you that now. I don’t think there is a person on my staff that is going to disagree with you. It is not the way to do school. And if at all possible, I would like to see us back in the fall on time and moving forward.”

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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