The state Department of Education says in its Returning to School guidelines that schools will likely reopen for the 2020-21 school year.
As of July 2020, Delaware’s minimal to moderate community spread of the coronavirus means schools will reopen, the report said.
But, it says, they will be “in a new environment, requiring innovative models for delivering instruction and supporting
the social and emotional wellness of students, their families, and staff. “
The 34-page report, which is posted on the DOE’s website, lists hundreds of suggestions for every aspect of school, including face covering, bus rides and trying to increase classroom ventilation.
The report did not seem address what happens to a teacher and the rest of the class if a student becomes infected with COVID-19, except to say everyone should follow Public Health guidelines. Typically, anyone in close contact with a person who is infected is told to stay home and self-quarantine until they can get the results of a test.
— Students and staff must stay home if they are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been confirmed to
have COVID-19 or if required by DPH to isolate or quarantine.
— Students and/or their families should complete a health assessment every morning before leaving for school, to
the extent practicable.
— Staff should also complete a health assessment every morning before leaving for school.
The report said that school districts and charter school are required to follow any recommendations with “must” and anything labelled “should” is recommended.
It also says the directives are based on public health information as of July 2020 and may be updated if conditions change.
The state has divided recommendations into three categories: what happens if the spread is mild, what happens if the spread is mild to moderate and what happens if the spread is significant.
In most cases, the recommendations for mild to moderate are the same. If the spread becomes severe, schools will close.
Gov. John Carney said in his Tuesday COVID-19 press conference that it’s possible one area of the state could be operating under guidelines for a significant spread while another is not.
Among some of the chief points:
— All staff and students in grades 4-12 must wear cloth face coverings, except when doing so
would inhibit the individual’s health. Face coverings should be worn by children in grades pre-k through 3rd grade,
except when doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.
— Students and staff must have access to handwashing facilities and supplies and hand sanitizer, and be allowed
time to wash hands in between activities.
— Students and staff should maintain the recommended distance of 6 feet or greater between individuals and must
maintain a minimum of 3 feet apart with face coverings, including when seated at desks or standing in classrooms.
— Individual desks should be used, reducing or eliminating shared table seating, to the extent practicable. When
tables have to be shared, students should be seated the recommended 6 feet or greater and
must be a minimum of 3 feet apart with face coverings.
— Desks must be arranged so they are facing the same direction.
— Hallways or corridors should flow either in one direction only or, if not possible, one direction on each side of the
hallway with ample 6 feet of distance between students in single file flow on each side.
— Students should be kept in stable groups throughout the day with little to no mixing of classes.
Stephanie Ingram, president of the Delaware State Education Association, which represents teachers and education professionals, said in a prepared release that the state’s recommendations now fall on districts to implement. Teachers want a seat at the tables where they are discussed, she said.
“We feel that in order to move forward, this guidance will need to be strictly adhered to,” she said. “They need to make an honest assessment of their ability to do it.”
If districts believe they can move forward and keep everyone safe, schools should be reopened, she said.
“However, if there is even the slightest doubt,” she said, “the districts need to start the school year in a remote learning environment
and continue until they can follow this guidance.”
Carney said Tuesday that the state will try to test all teachers and school staff before classes begin.
The recommendations say the Department of Education and Division of Public Health will work with all schools on how to make
testing available and convenient, and that more information will come.
The guidelines also say:
— Bus drivers and bus aides will be required to wear face coverings, except when doing so would inhibit the individual’s health.
— Face coverings may be homemade or disposable level one (basic) grade surgical masks; N95 respirators are not necessary.
— Buses must limit capacity by the number of students who can be seated between 3 or more feet apart on the school bus (one student/row in staggered fashion, if possible). Students from the same family may sit together in one row.
— Families who can drive their children to school should be encouraged to.