No ISOP for area’s international students this summer

DelDOT will try to maintain popular bike assistance program
March 12, 2021

Story Location:
Rehoboth Park & Ride
20055 Shuttle Road
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

Citing too many unknowns and ongoing concerns regarding COVID-19, the local International Student Outreach Program has announced it will not be operating this summer. However, the Delaware Department of Transportation is expected to at least try to operate the bike share program used by the students. 

Newly appointed ISOP Co-chair Debbie Donovan said the decision to cancel the program this summer wasn’t easy, because these students do need the help, but as an all-volunteer group primarily made up of older people, the risks were too high. She said the organization had to make a decision, because typically this is the time of year when the program begins to prepare for the influx of student workers.

Every year there’s a gathering of the local groups, companies that sponsor students, and others that fall under the umbrella of international student support. This year’s gathering was held virtually at the beginning of February. Donovan said a representative from the State Department said there will be more students than last year, but probably not as many as in 2019.

That wasn’t helpful, because there were 12 students last year and more than 1,000 in 2019, said Donovan. There’s no way to prepare with a range that wide, she said.

Donovan said the state department official said, as of now, there weren’t plans to require students to be vaccinated before coming to the United States. This is a grey area and a lot of the program’s volunteers are grey, so it was decided that putting volunteers in direct contact with students would be taking unnecessary risks, she said.

In addition to church dinners and other group gatherings, the summer work program is designed to include cultural experiences, which has meant organized trips to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and similar places for the students who come to work in the Cape Region. No matter how many kids come, that wasn’t going to be an option this year, said Donovan.

Charles McLeod, DelDOT spokesman, said the DelDOT Bicycle Program will attempt to operate this summer because there are employees and volunteers willing to help with distribution of bicycles. DelDOT is working with ISOP to have contact information on its website for arriving students who need a bicycle, he said.

As of press deadline March 11, that contact information was not on ISOP’s website.

The bike program may be in operation, but McLeod said bicycle safety checkpoints are on hold until further notice due to the COVID-19 situation. DelDOT has been working with state police and Sussex Cyclists to monitor the situation, he said.

Donovan said it will be difficult to know the true number of students coming this summer until the last minute because embassies and consulates aren’t open, which means visas aren’t being issued right now. She said airlines are requiring proof of a negative virus test before boarding, and 2-week quarantines are required upon arrival.

McLeod said the anticipated number of students this year is as many as 100.

In addition to the program changes, the ISOP program has undergone some personnel changes. Longtime Director Maryanne Kauffman has stepped down; Donovan and Sue Sprague are now running the program as co-directors. Kauffman and her husband Bruce, a dedicated bike safety advocate for the program, are moving to Virginia to be closer to family.

Donovan said she and Sprague have been working with Kauffman the whole time she was director. It was kind of the deal when she took over, said Donovan, explaining that Kauffman took on the role as director so long as she and Sprague were right there with her as co-assistant directors.

Everything else is unknown, but this transition should be seamless, said Donovan.

To keep up to date on the local ISOP program, go to

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