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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

Teachers union calls for Delaware to start school year with remote learning

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Delaware Public Media
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The state’s largest teachers’ union wants Delaware to begin the upcoming school year with school buildings closed.

Delaware State Education Association President Stephanie Ingram is calling for First State schools to use remote learning for at least the first six weeks.

Ingram notes a union survey of its teachers found 89.5 percent believe it’s important that schools are closed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

"Protecting the safety of Delaware educators, students, and families requires this action. We believe it will allow time to further evaluate the trauma caused by the virus, its impact on our student’s and educators’ mental health, the impact of the virus on the physical health of children of all ages" said Ingam in a statement. " It will also allow time to develop health plans for students and educators who are at a higher risk of infection and plans to meet the educational needs of students on a district-by-district basis

The DSEA's call for a remote learning start to the year comes a week after the union asked districts and charters to be honest about their ability to open safely under the state’s reopening guidelines in the time available to formulate plans.

Those state guidelines were released last week by the state Department of Education. The guidelines are built around three scenarios: a full return to school, complete remote learning or a combination of the two. DOE has said a decision regarding which path to take will be made early next month.

Gov. Carney’s spokesman Jonathan Starkey said in a statement the governor will not recommend returning to school even in a hybrid mode, if it’s not safe for everyone.  He adds it’s still too early to make an informed decision about schools.

"We need children in school learning, particularly our youngest learners. There is no substitute for in-person instruction. But safety remains the top priority and we’ll be working over the coming weeks to help districts and teachers get to a place of comfort and confidence," said Starkey in his statment. "Governor Carney will continue to follow the science and the data, in close consultation with Delaware’s public health experts. We’ll also continue to work closely with educators and school leaders on a path forward."

But in her statement, Ingram says teachers are uneasy about wnat they are hearing from Carney.

"[Tuesday], we had many members who tuned into the Governor’s press conference hoping to gain more answers and clarity about the upcoming school year. Instead, they left confused, with more questions and heightened concerns about their personal safety and well-being," said Ingram's statement.

House Democratic leadership – Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst and Majority Whip Larry Mitchell – issued their own statement Wednesday backing the teachers union stance.

“We need to listen to our frontline educators and take their concerns seriously. We agree with DSEA that until we have a better handle on this virus and a more comprehensive mitigation plan in place, we must prioritize the health and safety of our teachers and students above all else," read the statement. "Beginning the school year using remote learning is the safest option available to us in the current climate. As a state, we must work with our school districts and teachers to make sure they have the resources they need to successfully begin the school year.”

Ingram says everyone needs to work as hard as possible to ensure the students receive the best possible remote learning experience, while continuing to work on returning to in person learning when it’s safe.

Just this week, Brandywine, Caesar Rodney and Milford School Districts joine the ranks to districts moving back the start of their school years until after Labor Day or further.