UPDATED: Gov Carney & Ed Secretary Bunting Planning for Reopening of DE Schools

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UPDATED 5/19 11:45am – The public is encouraged to participate in these meetings. The first meeting is at 2pm Thursday, May 22. Click on this link for more information – https://publicmeetings.delaware.gov/Meeting/66051

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Governor John Carney and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting announced a public strategy on Monday to plan for the safe reopening of Delaware school buildings. Three COVID-19 School Reopening Working Groups will advise the Delaware Department of Education (DOE), Delaware school districts and charter schools on ways to safely and effectively reopen Delaware school buildings.

Last month, Governor Carney closed Delaware public school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year due to the threat of COVID-19.

The working groups will focus on:

  • Health and Wellness
    • Co-chair: Mike Rodriguez, Associate Secretary, Delaware Department of Education
    • Co-chair: Dr. Meghan Walls, Pediatric Psychologist, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
  • Academics and Equity
    • Co-chair: Monica Gant, Associate Secretary, Delaware Department of Education
    • Co-chair: Ashley Giska, Assistant Superintendent, Laurel School District
  • Operations and Services
    • Co-chair: Chuck Longfellow, Associate Secretary, Delaware Department of Education
    • Co-chair: Oliver Gumbs, Director of Business Operations, Cape Henlopen School District

“These working groups will provide important recommendations to Secretary Bunting and school and district leaders on how to safely return to school,” said Governor Carney. “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.”

Click here for a full list of working group members.

“We’re asking each working group to help the department develop a framework of essential actions that school district and charter school leaders should take to effectuate a safe return to school,” said Secretary Bunting. “These working groups also will help us reach out to our communities so that the ideas and concerns of Delawareans ground our work. These meetings will be open to the public, and I encourage participation across our state.”

“Preparing for the next school year under these extremely difficult times is going to require a multifaceted approach,” said House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst, a member of the Health and Wellness working group. “It’s not enough to plan for the logistics of how the schools will physically operate and how to ensure all students receive the quality education they deserve. We also have to prepare to address the mental health challenges that many of our children will face. This has been a stressful time for everyone, and children are no different. If we want this unique upcoming school year to be successful, we have to address students’ mental health and wellness.”

“It is imperative that we protect the safety, health, and well-being of students and staff when we reopen our schools,” said Stephanie Ingram, President of the Delaware State Education Association. “Our primary goal is to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of all students. These state work groups will give educators a voice in the decision-making process while making sure their thoughts and concerns are heard. This is all about safety. We do not want to rush into a decision that puts anyone in harm’s way.”

“As we work to transition from remote learning back into our school buildings, supporting the health and wellness of our students and staff members is imperative,” said Mike Rodriguez, Associate Secretary of Student Support at the Delaware Department of Education. “I’m excited to work with these leaders from across our state to recommend what programming, supports and protections are needed.”

The working groups, which include student representation and members of the General Assembly, will make final recommendations to DOE in July. The working groups will continue to meet through September 2020, or an alternate time period as set by Secretary Bunting. DOE will provide staffing support to the working groups.

“I’m honored to co-chair this workgroup to support Delaware students as we navigate how to make the safe transition back to school,” said Dr. Meghan Walls, a pediatric psychologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and co-chair of the Health and Wellness working group. “Among our many considerations are 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.”

“I am honored to work with such a talented group of stakeholders on what will be one of the most impactful challenges on public education in modern history,” said Ashley Giska, Assistant Superintendent at Laurel School District and co-chair of the Academics and Equity working group. “While the logistics of supporting our students academically and with equity as a driving force will be great, the innovation coming from all of our schools in such a short span of time has been truly inspiring. 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.”

Anyone with a question about COVID-19, whether related to medical or social service needs, should call Delaware 2-1-1. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Health or medically-related COVID-19 questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.