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Schools forced into remote learning because of COVID related absences

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media
The Capital School District announced remote learning on Wednesday and Thursday this week because of a lack of available staff.

A surge in COVID-19 across the state is forcing some school districts to go virtual.

But the closures are because of staffing, not the spread of COVID in schools.

New Castle County Vo-Tech, Christina and Capital school districts have turned to virtual learning this week citing operational issues. And Milford School District planned to have its high school go virtual Monday and Tuesday before snow closed schools completely.

These changes have been caused by staffing shortages from the recent rise in COVID-19 across the state, leading to teacher and support staff absences.

It’s an issue nationwide and Gov. John Carney says keeping kids in school is a priority among all state governors.

“We know they need to be there for learning,” says Carney. “We know they need to be there for social emotional issues. And we know they need to be there just for the general operations of our economy.”

Virtual learning can create issues at home, where working parents may have to scramble to find childcare and ensure kids are learning.

Carney says he’s been in touch with school districts to identify what the state can do to help. One option would be to mobilize National Guard members to help alleviate staffing gaps, such as driving school buses.

“We are looking at, I mentioned it briefly, on whether there’s a role for the National Guard there to help — because it’s essentially a staffing problem, it’s a problem with people, staff that have tested positive for an infection they got outside of the school and not being able to come to the school to teach or to drive a bus; whatever the case may be,” he says.

Carney recently declared a state of emergency to mobilize around 100 National Guard Members to train up as Certified Nursing Assistants and alleviate staffing shortages in Delaware hospitals.

He adds that ultimately it’s up to individual districts to decide what tools to use to help keep kids in school, noting efforts to prevent spread in schools themselves have been successful through masking and encouraging vaccination among children and staff.

But schools have a harder time controlling what happens off site, and the school staff are getting caught up in the latest spike in cases.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.