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State issues guidance for schools

Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting speaks to the media during a briefing on the current status of the coronavirus pandemic in Delaware Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at the Carvel State Building in Wilmington.

The Delaware Department of Education has released guidance for three different school reopening scenarios, but there are doubts about feasibility.

“This guidance document is meant to be used as support for district and charter leaders as they continue planning for the opening of the 2020-2021 school year,” said department Secretary Susan Bunting. “Essential safety protocols must be implemented by all Delaware schools, pre-K [through] 12. Additionally, actionable planning steps have been included for districts and charter schools to consider as they develop their own site-based plans.”

Schools are expected to use the guidance to formulate three different plans for the upcoming school year, based on three public health possibilities:

  • If minimal community spread exists in Delaware and school buildings re-open
  • If minimal-to-moderate community spread exists in Delaware (situation dependent)
  • If significant community spread exists in Delaware and school buildings remain closed.

Developed in collaboration with school reopening work-groups and the Division of Public Health, the document outlines what schools need to do both before and after instruction resumes.

“It is so important to get children back into a physical school setting, but we are obligated to do it in a way that keeps students and staff safe, by using key prevention strategies for mitigating the potential spread of COVID-19,” said Division of Public Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the Department of Education and school reopening work-groups to support them in determining how best to implement the use of face coverings for staff and students, implement social distancing in classrooms, hallways and lunch periods and ensure frequent opportunities for good hand hygiene.”

The Division of Public Health has also worked with schools to establish procedures for managing COVID-19 positive cases that occur in the school setting, and in reviewing strategies that can be revised and adapted depending on the level of viral transmission in the school and throughout the community.

The guidance applies to state school districts and charter schools, but private schools are encouraged to follow it as well.

Click here to read the full document.

“Since the day we closed school buildings, our goal has been to return students and educators to their classrooms as soon as it is safe to do so,” said Carney. “When we do return to our school buildings, we know our daily routines will look different than they did in March. Important safety measures, such as wearing face coverings and socially distancing, will help protect our children and educators and help us reduce the spread of COVID-19 so we can stay in our classrooms, where our students learn best.”

The state is working with schools to make testing available and convenient for all educators and staff before the school year begins.

However, according to the Delaware State Education Association, whether or not schools have the ability to follow the guidance is in question.

"We feel that in order to move forward, this guidance will need to be strictly adhered to by the school districts. They need to take a hard look at what must be done to keep students and staff safe and healthy," said association president Stephanie Ingram. "They need to make an honest assessment of their ability to do it."

If there is even the slightest doubt, Ingram said, schools should operate in a remote learning environment until they are able to follow the guidance.

She applauded Appoquinimink School District, which has already delayed the beginning of the upcoming school school, and suggested others do the same.