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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.

Delaware school districts prepare for in-person start

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Delaware Public Media
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It’s shaping up to be a tense start to the school year in Delaware—as the coronavirus surges and a small but vocal group of parents push back on the state’s school mask mandate. 

 

Many students go back to school, in-person, in just a week. 

 

“Our mantra this year is ‘we’re back’,” said Jeffrey Menzer, superintendent of the Colonial School District.”I kind of left that open ended like, ‘we’re back, and we have a lot of different variables in there’.”

Menzer says his biggest concern is the threat the surging Delta variant poses to students under 12, who can’t be vaccinated. He says flexibility will be key. 

“You come back in the beginning of August and it’s like, oh my god, all those things that we developed and designed March 13, 2020 are back in our minds,” he said. “So we have to be able to pull those out and utilize them if we have a school with a high number of cases.”

Gov. John Carney announced a mask mandate inside school buildings earlier this month—but has not pursued a vaccine mandate for educators. 

The nation’s largest teachers’ union supports vaccine mandates. Delaware’s statewide union has not taken a position yet, and says it is not aware of any efforts to institute vaccine mandates at the district level. 

Delaware State Education Association president Stephanie Ingram says she’s satisfied with the preparations districts are making for a safe return to school. 

“I think they’re doing everything that they can,” she said. “Masks are the very least you can do to keep yourself, your students and your community safe. We know that the districts will be imposing the mask mandate that the Governor handed down to keep our students safe. We know they’re doing social distancing.”

 

“I’m hoping we’re never going to go back to hybrid,” said Christina School District Superintendent Dan Shelton.

 

Shelton notes around 700 students in his district chose to learn virtually this year through the district’s “virtual academy.”

 

“Last year it was done quick, it was done spur-of-the-moment and changed on a regular basis,” he said. “Learning wasn’t done in the way we hoped it would be done. This year we’re doing it much more thoughtfully. And we’re making sure those that are interested in a virtual option, that’s where they go. Those that aren’t interested in virtual,, they’re in the classrooms, and everybody’s getting what they need and what they want.”

 

But Shelton says parts of his district will be ready to move to synchronous or asynchronous distance learning if there are outbreaks of COVID.

 

“We’re going to pivot just as we need to based on the situation at hand,” he said. 

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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