Gov. Carney wants Delaware public schools to open with mix of in-class and remote learning

Smyrna High and other public schools in Delaware can open for hybrid learning or remote classes only. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

Smyrna High and other public schools in Delaware can open for hybrid learning or remote classes only. (Cris Barrish/WHYY)

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Delaware’s public schools got the green light Tuesday to open with a hybrid of in-class and remote learning.

Yet if the state’s 19 districts and about two dozen charters schools don’t feel they can educate kids safely in buildings, they can opt for online only.

That’s the guidance Gov. John Carney issued at his weekly coronavirus briefing, and it’s exactly what he has been telegraphing in recent remarks about reopening schools that he closed March 13 when the pandemic struck Delaware.

Carney said he wants kids in school full time but cannot allow it yet because the state is still experiencing moderate community spread of the coronavirus.

Delaware is averaging about 90 cases a day over the last two weeks and it’s test positivity rate is under 5%. To open schools completely, the benchmark to do so is less than 10 cases a day and a positivity rate under 3%.

But the governor is giving schools flexibility.

There’s no one size that fits all. And that’s because every school district is a little bit different. A different number of students. A different configuration in their buildings. Different capacity in their buildings,’’ he said.

He also noted that “you need more buses’’ to bring children to and from school and allow for physical distancing on the vehicles.

The 13,000-member state teachers union has urged the governor to begin school with remote learning only for at least the first six weeks. After Carney’s announcement of the hybrid plan, Delaware State Education Association president Stephania Ingram told WHYY its position has not changed.

“We are still asking the districts to think about their capability, their capacities and the safety of everyone involved and to determine what would be best for the folks in that district,’’ Ingram said.

Ingram stressed that union leadership “is not suggesting that teachers don’t report back to work.”

The union also represents counselors, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, and other non-teachers.

Masks will be mandatory for all students from fourth through 12th grades and urged for younger students. Physical distancing measures must be instituted, such as one-way hallways, officials said.

Schools are also in the process of setting up testing sites so all students and teachers can get tested before school begins. The aim is to test teachers monthly and to offer follow-up testing for students as well.

Kendall Massett, who heads the Delaware Charter Schools Network, didn’t opine on Carney’s guidance. But in a statement she said the charter schools “support diverse communities, with diverse students, families, educators and staff. All have an unique set of needs that require individualized solutions.”

Massett said she and administrators will collaborate with state officials, education advocates, and their families “as we finalize our plans to allow us to safely reopen while making sure that we are providing the best academic and social-emotional experience we can for our students.”

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