Gov. John Carney on March 13 directed all Delaware public schools close from March 16-27 to allow schools to prepare for potential spread of coronavirus COVID-19.
In a letter to school superintendents and charter school officials, Carney said over the next two weeks the state will work with school leaders and public health experts to create a plan for Delaware students and educators as the coronavirus outbreak continues.
“We will specifically prepare for the potential impact of extended school closures on Delaware children and their families. Public school leaders should also undertake a deep cleaning of their facilities during the two-week closure,” he wrote.
Carney said Delaware children deserve a world-class education, and ongoing access to services that are delivered in their schools each day. Many students – especially those from disadvantaged communities – also rely on school meals for nutrition, and other important social services, he said.
“We will be working with districts to plan for providing learning opportunities and other meal and social services for our students in the event of an extended closure,” he said.
The Delaware Division of Public Health did not recommend closing schools because the virus could be around for months and closing schools could have negative effects on children and parents, Carney said.
Still, he said, he closed the schools for decontamination. “Longer periods of closure can be part of a mitigation strategy for communities with substantial community spread of the virus,” Carney wrote.
Meal options for students
The Delaware Department of Education has received a waiver from the federal government to allow school nutrition programs to provide meals to students during the closure.
Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting said waivers to operate federal nutrition programs mean most district and charter schools will be able to provide meals for students who may need them while they are not in school due to COVID-19.
“Additionally, the state is in communication with other organizations that may assist in the provision of meals for students during this time,” Bunting said.
The list of open meal sites for students is at doe.k12.de.us/covid19. Families may pick up meal bags for children 18 and under who live in their home. Children must be present. Any family needing additional information may contact their district or charter office.
In a March 13 letter to families, Cape Superintendent Bob Fulton said the district will keep families informed via several communication tools, including capehenlopenschools.com. Fulton said 12-month employees are asked to check their district email for communications regarding work schedules during the closure. The Sussex Consortium ribbon cutting scheduled for Friday, March 20 has been postponed until further notice.
Beginning Wednesday, April 18, the district will be offering grab and go breakfast and lunch meals to children ages 18 and under for pick up from 11 a.m. to 12 noon at H.O. Brittingham Elementary. All resident families can pick up meals; a child must be present. District officials are working with local restaurants, Food Bank of Delaware and other community partners on other food options for students and families.
At this point, district officials say, schoolwork will not be sent home, but a new webpage, capehenlopenschools.com/virtual, has been created to share learning resources.
School nurses will be distributing any medications families may need from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 18.
All Sussex Tech high school students, Adult Education students, and 10-month staff should not report to school over the next two weeks. Twelve-month staff will be notified of their work schedule, spokesperson Dan Shortridge said in a statement.
During this time, all activities and events, including athletic events, have been canceled. District custodial staff will continue to clean and disinfect all contact surfaces on campus.
“We thank our school community for their patience and understanding as we navigate this challenging and highly fluid situation,” said Superintendent Stephen Guthrie. “We believe that this temporary closure is a good step forward in addressing family concerns and mitigating against future spread of the virus.”
The State of Delaware issued guidance March 14 to assist non-public school child care facilities with their response to the global outbreak of respiratory coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).
Based on advice from the CDC, Delaware Division of Public Health does not recommend closing non-public school child care settings at this time. The data available from 74,000 cases that occurred in China show that only 2 percent of individuals under 19 years of age tested positive for COVID-19.
“Children appear to be less vulnerable to this virus and based upon the science we have now, it does not indicate that closing child care facilities will help in reducing the spread of COVID-19,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “Child care centers are controlled environments generally with small classroom sizes. Providers know who is coming in and out, who is sick, and are able to restrict access to help reduce risk. We are constantly evaluating information, but right now, parents should continue sending their children to child care to help provide structure.”
The guidance suggested child care facilities use preventive measures including increased hand-washing procedures and strictly enforcing illness policies for children and staff.
“While families can typically make do for a day or two when schools are closed, longer closures make it harder to find child care,” said Ray Fitzgerald, director of DHSS Division of Social Services. “We know parents are concerned about their employment, and keeping non-public school child care open helps to reduce that worry.”