Message from Governor Carney on COVID-19

A few weeks ago, I visited Stubbs Early Education Center in the Christina School District. I saw students who were headed to their first day of in-person school, excited to make friends, learn, and be in school. They were wearing masks, and socially distant.

In one classroom, one teacher was working with a few students, while another was comforting a little girl who missed her parents.  Meanwhile in a nearby classroom, another teacher was connected to Zoom. She was reading a story to her class virtually, stopping to ask them questions along the way.

Throughout this pandemic, we have asked educators to throw out the playbook, to move away from years of classroom mainstays and procedures. And to develop an entirely new way of educating and engaging their students.

And they’ve done it.

They’ve provided a sense of calm and comfort for students, parents, and each other. They’ve adapted to changing information and changing protocols.

It has not been easy. And in many cases, it has not been pretty. I know there has been incredible stress, and feelings of frustration and fear. We all should express our appreciation to our educators, school nurses, and school and district leaders.  

Here is the good news. 

Since September, 576 students and staff in public and private schools have tested positive. There are over 60,000 students participating in some form of in-person learning in Delaware.  It’s a testament to the hard work of students, educators and staff that the number is so low. And data from our epidemiologists shows that the vast majority of those 576 cases originated outside of the school building.  

So students are learning. And they are doing so safely. That’s thanks to our educators.

Over the summer, we put together working groups of teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and legislators to come up with a plan to reopen schools safely. Back then, in July and August, we didn’t know what we know now. Based on what we knew then, we made our best estimate of what conditions would have to look like in order for us to recommend a school closure. And we designed a data dashboard to reflect that.

I know that educators and parents have been following that dashboard closely, and many believe we should stick to what we understood over the summer and close schools once hospitalizations and percent positive go into the red zone – a threshold we are fast approaching.

I take very seriously the perils of changing course here, as it relates to the public’s confidence in our approach.

But I take equally seriously the implications of ignoring the science.

We can’t hang on to old facts that don’t meet current realities. 

We have to adapt and adjust, just like we’ve asked educators to do.

The data here in Delaware and our lived experience with the many schools that have successfully reopened, combined with what we’ve seen across the country and in Europe, indicates that the risk of transmission in school when social distancing protocols are followed is not significant. The harm of keeping students out of school, as we all know, is. 

Given those facts, there is not really a public health reason to close schools right now. And I believe strongly that students learn better in person.

However, we live in a complicated world and a complicated time, and it’s clear to me that there are operational needs that make considering a brief pause a good idea.  

Educators, school nurses, and administrators need a chance to figure those challenges out and regroup. And the Division of Public Health can use this time to retool and streamline its school-related procedures. 

School personnel are not immune to the effects of rising community spread, and as more school personnel are forced to quarantine, it becomes increasingly difficult for schools to operate. 

For these reasons, I’m recommending that schools pause and take an extended winter break to reset: 

These are still local decisions. Some districts may choose to stay open, and we will support them in doing so.

But for schools that choose to follow this recommendation, I’m suggesting they make next week the final week of in-person learning this calendar year. 

  • Starting Monday, December 14, those schools should transition to remote learning for the final week or so until the holiday break. 
  • Remote learning should continue until Friday, January 8.  
  • On Monday, January 11, schools should return to their in-person hybrid instruction.  
  • Sports practices may continue, provided social distancing and masking guidelines are followed, but no competitions will be permitted until January 11 at the earliest.  

We are also implementing a Household Stay-at-Home Advisory from December 14 to January 11. We’re asking Delawareans to avoid gathering indoors with anyone outside their household.  

We are implementing a universal indoor mask mandate for the same time period. 

And we are considering additional restrictions. 

Over the break, we will be replacing the data dashboard with data more specific and relevant to the public health conditions affecting schools. 

We’ve learned that schools are a low-risk environment. We need to do more to give school personnel the information and reassurance they need to confidently reenter the classrooms in January. 

Next week I plan to meet with local teachers’ union leaders, to discuss their experiences with hybrid learning, and how we can support them to get children back in January.  Our Department of Education will stand ready to meet with them and their district leadership to discuss any concerns or questions they may have.  We will do the same with representatives from charter schools across our state. We also created an email address (Educator.Feedback@doe.k12.de.us) specifically for educators who want to share their experiences with us. 

Based on what we hear, the Department will work with the Division of Public Health to recommend any operational changes needed to give educators a greater level of comfort in the classroom.

This virus is scary. And dealing with it every day for nine months has been emotionally fatiguing. Educators didn’t sign up to be on the front lines of a global pandemic. And I know this has certainly been a lot to bear for them.

I’m asking you to hold on just a little bit longer. A vaccine is coming, and it’s coming soon. Educators will be among the first to receive the vaccine. And God willing, we will bend the curve of this virus once and for all. 

Before closing, I have a message for parents. We need your help. Our teachers are keeping your children safe in school. We need you to keep them safe outside of school. That means avoid indoor playdates. Avoid sleepovers. Avoid birthday parties outside your family. Avoid carpooling without masks.

We’re entrusting our educators with the health and safety of our children. It is a weighty responsibility. It’s a big job. They’re working extremely hard in extremely difficult conditions. They need our support and your help. Please be patient.  And most important of all, please join me in thanking them.

 


First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney Announces “First Chance” Award Recipients

Awards recognize leaders, organizations that provided meals for children during spring and summer

WILMINGTON, Del. – First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney and members of the End Childhood Hunger Task Force (ECHO) on Friday announced recipients of “First Chance” awards. The award recipients consist of leaders and teams that stepped up to keep feeding Delaware children when school buildings had to close from mid-March through June due to COVID-19.

“School-based food services represent our front line of defense against childhood hunger and in support of the nutrition essential to healthy development and learning,” said First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney. “When school buildings had to close, it took a wide range of teams – comprised of dedicated, creative, determined individuals – to devise and implement plans to continue to feed our kids. We are so very grateful for their extraordinary work, which they are still doing, on behalf of the children of Delaware. We are proud to recognize these leaders and teams with First Chance awards for extraordinary service to Delaware’s children during the pandemic.”

First Chance Award Recipients:

  • Appoquinimink School District – Janice Vander Decker

  • Boys & Girls Club of Delaware – Tony Windsor

  • Brandywine School District, School Nutrition – Colleen Carter

  • Caesar Rodney School District – Paul Rodgers

  • Cape Henlopen School District – Cheryle Lord-Gordon

  • Capital School District – James Trower

  • Christina School District – Andrea Solge

  • City of Wilmington, Department of Youth and Families, Food Service Program – Victoria Fuentes-Cox

  • Colonial School District – A. Paula Angelucci

  • Community Education Building PS #5 LLC – Havena Hollins

  • Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Delaware Division of Social Services – Mondel Powell

  • Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, Delaware Division of Social Services (Pandemic-EBT Customer Service Team) – Maggie Smith, Carolyn Kincaid, and Marcella Spady

  • Delaware Department of Transportation – Mike Rivera, Dan Sturgeon, Warren Ziegler, Butch Kelley, and Laura Brown 

  • Delaware National Guard – Captain Kevin Caneco, Army 1st Lt. James Willey, and Sgt. 1st Class Brian Turner

  • Ezion Fair Community Academy – Reverend Dr. Christopher Curry

  • Family Outreach Multipurpose Community Center Inc. – Stephanie Dukes

  • Food Bank of Delaware – Sanjay Malik

  • Harry K Foundation – Harry Keswani

  • Indian River School District – Clifton Toomey

  • Lake Forest School District – Jennifer Montano

  • Laurel School District – Julie Gibbons

  • Milford School District – Sharon Forrest

  • Polytech School District – Carol Arrington

  • Red Clay Consolidated School District – Jessica Terranova RD, LDN

  • Seaford School District – William Mengel

  • Smyrna School District – Roger Holt

  • Tarbiyah School – Dr. Amna Latif

  • The Little People Child Development Center – Janice Palmer

  • Woodbridge School District – Joann Joseph

  • YMCA of Delaware – Courtney Hoy

The award recipients, many of whom are Delaware’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sponsors, were able to coordinate sites early this spring so that families could pick up meals for children to eat at home. Additional organizations and community partners worked with the SFSP sponsors to ensure students had nutritious meals outside of school. 

Members of the statewide ECHO Task Force selected the award recipients. With a central team convened by the First Lady, the Task Force includes representatives from the Food Bank of Delaware, the Department of Education, and the Department of Health and Social Services. The task force’s specific goals include increasing participation and building partnerships in support of the Summer Food Service Program and alternative model school breakfasts. The task force also seeks to promote awareness of all programs, public and private, available to Delawareans experiencing food insecurity.

“The Delaware Department of Education is grateful for all of the hard work and dedication of the Summer Food Service Program Sponsors who quickly jumped into action when schools closed,” said Aimee Beaman Education Associate for Nutrition Programs at the Delaware Department of Education. “Without their creativity and hard work, many children would have gone without the nutritious meals that the need to grow and learn.”

“Nothing is more important to all of us at the Department of Health and Social Services than making sure that Delaware children in need receive meals regularly,” said Ray Fitzgerald, Director of DHSS’ Division of Social Services. “We are grateful to all of the First Chance award recipients who helped us meet that priority during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The demand for food assistance as a result of the pandemic has been unprecedented,” said Charlotte McGarry, Chief Programs Officer for the Food Bank of Delaware. “It has truly taken our entire community to ensure that the nutritional needs of Delawareans – especially our children – are met. We are so thankful for all of the hunger heroes who have stepped up during this crisis to make sure children’s most basic needs are met.”

First Lady Carney launched the First Chance Delaware initiative in 2018 to recognize and facilitate effective partnerships, to share research and best practices, and to promote opportunities to collaborate in support of Delaware’s children. First Chance Delaware focuses its work on ending childhood hunger and expanding access to nutritious food for low-income children; promoting learning readiness through literacy, health and parent-child engagement programs; and advancing the recognition of – and effective responses to – adverse childhood experiences.

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Governor Carney Announces Delaware Schools May Open in Hybrid Scenario

Data on COVID-19 community spread in Delaware indicates mix of remote and in-person instruction 

WILMINGTON, Del. – Based on a review of COVID-19 data in Delaware, Governor John Carney and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced on Tuesday that Delaware schools may open under a hybrid scenario next month, with a mix of in-person and remote instruction and significant safety precautions to limit transmission of COVID-19.

Delaware is currently experiencing minimal to moderate spread of COVID-19 under gating criteria established by DPH, which includes a review of weekly cases, percent positivity, and average daily hospitalizations.

Three school reopening working groups created the green/yellow/red framework to reopen schools safely in Delaware. Last month, the Delaware Department of Education (DOE) also released guidance to assist district and charter leaders in safely reopening schools, including guidance on social distancing in schools, mask wearing, and transportation concerns.

Review school reopening criteria and other COVID-19 data in Delaware.

Click here for list of FAQs about safe school reopening in Delaware.

“Safely reopening schools for Delaware children – especially our youngest learners and disadvantaged children who need in-person instruction the most – is the most important and difficult issue we’ll face as we continue to confront this COVID-19 crisis,” said Governor Carney. “Our public health team will continue to work closely with district and school leaders to get this right. Hybrid learning may look different across each district, charter or private school. But one thing is clear: the safety of all of Delaware’s students, educators and staff will be our top priority. We can’t get students back to school if we can’t do so safely. This is a science-based approach, and I want to thank everyone who participated in our working groups and put so much thought into this effort.”

Working with district and school leaders, the State of Delaware will provide free COVID-19 testing for educators and staff before the school year begins and in regular intervals following school reopening, using an at-home testing option. Community testing sites geared toward students will be set up at schools throughout the state in the weeks before schools open.

“We are committed to ensuring student, educator and staff safety as we navigate reopening schools,” said Dr. Rick Hong, Medical Director at the Delaware Division of Public Health. “We will continue to monitor the data closely to identify trends and provide schools with the best guidance possible based on that data.”

“Since school buildings closed in March, we have been working to return our children and educators to their classrooms as soon as we are able to safely and effectively do so,” said Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “We will continue to support districts and charters as they design and implement their local plans under the hybrid model.”

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.

Questions can also be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

Report violations of COVID-19 restrictions by emailing HSPContact@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.

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State of Delaware Announces Guidance for Reopening of Schools for 2020-21 Academic Year

Guidance to help Districts and Charters plan for three different learning scenarios based on COVID-19 spread

WILMINGTON, Del. – Secretary of Education Susan Bunting today released the state’s guidance for the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 academic year. Districts and charter schools will use this guidance to formulate plans for the upcoming school year.

In August, Governor John Carney, in consultation with the Delaware Division of Public Health, will announce his decision on whether or not schools will start the year in person. Districts and charters will then implement their plans based on the scenario that aligns with current health conditions, understanding there may be some regional variability.

Click here to read the full guidance.

“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 Governor 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.”

Developed in collaboration with the three school reopening workgroups and DPH, today’s document outlines what schools need to do prior to re-opening and after instruction resumes under three scenarios: if minimal community spread exists in Delaware (and school buildings re-open), if minimal-to-moderate community spread exists in Delaware (situation dependent) and if significant community spread exists in Delaware (and school buildings remain closed).

While today’s guidance applies to districts and charter schools, private schools are encouraged to follow it as well. Minimum requirements for social distancing, mask-wearing, hand-washing and other basic precautions will apply to all schools.

The State of Delaware will also work with districts and schools to make testing available and convenient for all educators and staff before the school year begins.

“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 Secretary Bunting. “Essential safety protocols must be implemented by all Delaware schools, preK-12.  Additionally, actionable planning steps have been included for districts and charter schools to consider as they develop their own site-based plans.”

“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 DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We appreciate the opportunity to work closely with the Department of Education and school reopening workgroups 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.”

Dr. Rattay said DPH has also worked with schools to establish procedures for managing COVID-19 positive cases that occur among students or staff 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.

“Schools provide more than just academics to children and adolescents. In addition, children learn social and emotional skills, get exercise and healthy meals, and access to mental health support, the internet, and other vital services. We want to support schools in re-engaging children in a safe and healthy way,” said Dr. Rattay.

In May, three school reopening working groups began meeting to advise the department, Delaware school districts and charter schools on ways to safely and effectively reopen Delaware school buildings. The three groups each had a specific focus: health and wellness, academics and equity, and operations and services. With diverse representation on each 17-member group, the groups met over five weeks.

The working groups presented their recommendations, and the following guidance was developed taking into consideration the recommendations, public comments, a state survey of more than 20,000 families, students, educators, and school/district leaders, department research, and health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Academy of Pediatrics and Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH).

“I am grateful to the committee members for their time and dedication. I also appreciate the widespread interest and feedback from the public. The livestream meetings have been viewed more than 7,000 times, and we have received hundreds of comments from Delawareans,” said Dr. Bunting.

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald, the longest-serving superintendent in the state, is the president of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association.

“I want to thank Secretary Bunting and the members of the three working groups for their time and expertise,” said Fitzgerald. “These have been challenging times for all of us. So as school districts begin the monumental task of preparing for the re-opening of schools under the three different scenarios, the guidance provided in this document will be essential in helping to develop plans that will not only promote the health and safety of our students and staff but also meet the educational needs of our students.”

“The Delaware State Education Association has followed three guiding principles as we moved into remote learning and now contemplate the reopening of our schools – protecting the health and safety of our students, educators, and the communities they serve; keeping students learning; and minimizing the financial impact on our state, districts, and educators,” said Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram. “We thank the Governor and Secretary of Education for making sure that DSEA had representatives on each of the three reopening work groups.  By doing so, they ensured that our members’ voices would be heard during the process.”

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 to DPHCall@delaware.gov.

Report a business for COVID-19 non-compliance using this form.

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response to COVID-19, go to de.gov/coronavirus.

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Delaware Schools Closed through Academic Year

A statement from Governor Carney on Delaware Schools:

“We made the difficult decision today – in consultation with superintendents across our state – to close schools through the rest of the academic year. I know this will be difficult for a lot of Delawareans, and Delaware students. Nothing replaces in-person instruction, and the services that are delivered in our schools every day, but the health and safety of Delawareans is our first priority.

“I am confident that school leaders and educators across our state will continue to lean into remote instruction for the rest of this academic year. Our schools also have done a tremendous job delivering meals to students in their communities. That work will also continue. I want to thank all of our educators, students, school leaders and families for their work during this difficult time.”