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New working groups will guide reopening of school buildings

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Gov. John Carney has announced the creation of several working groups to plan for the safe reopening of Delaware school buildings. 

Carney ordered school buildings closed for the rest of the school year last month in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The three working groups will focus on “health and wellness,” “academics and equity,” and “operations and services.”

“These working groups will provide important recommendations to Secretary Bunting and school and district leaders on how to safely return to school,” Carney said in a statement Monday. “I am pleased with the expertise these members bring to this important effort and look forward to their guidance on the key issues that Delaware’s superintendents and charter school leaders must consider before re-opening their buildings.”

Delaware Department of Education (DOE) Secretary Susan Bunting said in a statement the working groups are tasked with helping the department develop a “framework of essential actions” that school district and charter school leaders should take.

House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst will sit on the Health and Wellness working group. She said in a statement the education system will need to prepare to address “mental health challenges” that many children will face. 

“Preparing for the next school year under these extremely difficult times is going to require a multifaceted approach,” she said. “It’s not enough to plan for the logistics of how the schools will physically operate and how to ensure all students receive the quality education they deserve. … This has been a stressful time for everyone, and children are no different. If we want this unique upcoming school year to be successful, we have to address students’ mental health and wellness.”

The head of the state-wide teachers’ union says educators will have a voice in the decision-making process. Students will also be represented.

“It is imperative that we protect the safety, health, and wellbeing of students and staff when we reopen our schools,” said Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram in a statement. “This is all about safety. We do not want to rush into a decision that puts anyone in harm’s way.”

DOE Secretary Bunting said the working groups will reach out to communities so that the “ideas and concerns of Delawareans” ground her department’s work. 

The working groups will make final recommendations to DOE in July, and will continue to meet through September. The meetings will be open to the public. 


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