Delaware schools will likely open while the spread the coronavirus is mild to moderate, and that will could mean a mix of in-person classes and distance learning, Gov. John Carney said Tuesday.
The state last week issued Returning to School guidelines that divided the likely scenarios into three sections: the virus spread in a community is mild, or green; mild to moderate, or yellow; and severe, or red.
“My own view is that we’re likely to be in that yellow category as we move into the end of August and early September,” Carney said during his weekly coronavirus press conference.
He and Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health, said several studies show that children under the age of 10 do not become infected with COVID-19 as easily as others. They also don’t infect other people as easily.
That could open the door to having younger children in school while older ones are not.
“Obviously we have public health objectives and we have educational objectives,” Carney said. “And one of the things that has been kind of the highest educational objectives … is to make sure that every third grader can read at grade level.”
From preschool to third grade, the governor said, children learn to read. From third grade on, they read to learn, he said.
Carney pointed to a release from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that said schools should prioritize reopening in the fall, especially for kindergarten through grade 5.
Younger children seem to be infected by adults in their own household, but don’t spread it to other or adults in the household, Rattay said.
“We still have a lot to learn,” she said, because most schools in the U.S. and around the world were closed in the spring, so there’s not a lot of evidence.
Carney also noted that when the state opened day cares in the spring so essential workers had someone to care for their children, they seemed to follow that pattern.
“Our goal ought to be to have the biggest benefit for the most students with a manageable or lowest amount of risk,” Carney said.
The Division of Public Health has appointed a liaison to each school district to help them make decisions about technical matters, the governor said.
Decisions about re-opening schools safetly are “going to based on the facts, the data and the situation on the ground,” Carney said. “It’s not going to be based on fear.”
A reporter pointed out that the Brandywine School District had voted to delay the start of school so it could better prepare and that state teachers want classes to begin online. She asked whether the state was having second thoughts about opening.
“We are going to work very closely with the the schools to try to get as much in-person instruction as possible,” Carney said. “Might it make sense for schools to gradually open and learn as each day goes by? Certainly, if that’s what it takes to make the appropriate accommodations.”
He said the state would like to test every teacher and staff member before classes start.
“Having schools and districts open in a staggered kind of way,” he said, “maybe a week apart or a few days apart actually helps us to get testing done and proceed in a timely basis.”