Health, wellness school reopening group considers recommendations

Not enough resources in schools to implement, members say
June 16, 2020

Students could be learning at desks outfitted with protective screens six feet from each other this next school year.

The recommendation is one of many considered by a health and wellness committee, one of three working groups formed to plan for a safe reopening of Delaware school buildings, the governor’s office announced May 18.

The group is tasked with evaluating three scenarios of what school would look like under best, moderate and worst-case scenarios of COVID-19 spread in Delaware using Centers for Disease Control modeling of other influenza outbreaks.

At the first meeting June 2, the committee discussed the best-case scenario amid minimal spread of the virus, in which schools could open and operate normally, with customary spacing between seats and movement between classes; bussing, dining, extracurricular and athletics would all take place as normal. 

On June 9, members considered scenario two, a minimal to moderate spread of COVID-19 in which there is a 14-day trend of increasing positive cases. At this stage, school activities would shift from fully open to partially closed to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald said this is the scenario schools will likely face. He said many schools are overwhelmed right now and don't have enough psychologists, guidance counselors or nurses to implement all recommendations and guarantee the wellness of students. 

At this stage, students could attend school on a staggered schedule in combination with remote learning. Desks would be spaced six feet apart with a screen or barrier at the front of desks, all which would face the same direction in classes ideally comprising less than 20 students.

Sussex Tech student Emma Brower, a committee member, said students don’t just sit at their desks all day, particularly with hands-on technical classes and labs.

The committee will discuss more details of scenario two at its next meeting, to be held at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 16, on the Delaware Department of Education YouTube channel.

The group is co-chaired by Delaware Department of Education Associate Secretary Mike Rodriguez and Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children pediatric psychologist Dr. Meghan Walls. Members include educators, legislators and counselors.

The group will provide DOE Secretary Susan Bunting with final recommendations June 30. Subsequent meetings will be held at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 23, and Wednesday, June 30, on the DOE YouTube channel.

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