Officials are in the process of creating statewide recommendations for how Delaware schools may reopen in the fall and their discussions involve topics like sports, transportation as well as school meals.
“I think a lot of the things that are coming up are questions about how kids will cope with the change and I’ve been saying a lot in the group, as a pediatric psychologist I want people to remember that our kids are resilient and we have to give them a chance to deal with change,” says Dr. Meghan Walls, a pediatric psychologist at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Dr. Walls is also a co-chair for the Health and Wellness COVID-19 School Reopening Working Group.
The state has assigned different working groups to look at three scenarios depending on the number of COVID-19 cases Delaware has, come September. Scenario one corresponds with the state’s reopening phase two or three. Scenario two corresponds with reopening phase one or two and scenario three with phase one or zero.
“I think in coming back to school no matter what we say or do there’s always going to be some risk involved,” says Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, the Superintendent for the Caesar Rodney School District.
Recommendations will address things like screening and testing, school meals, cleaning, extracurricular activities and athletics as well as transportation. “We’ve heard concerns about will masks scare our little guys? We’ve heard concerns about can we send kids back to one sport but not another sport? Does that seem fair,” says Dr. Walls.
Some recommendations involve allowing sports where students can social distance like golf or track and field while discouraging contact sports like football, wrestling and basketball. “Our goal here is what can we put forward that are the very best recommendations that address physical health and mental health in getting kids back to school safely,” says Dr. Walls.
Some are concerned about the way finances and efficiency may be impacted when it comes to recommendations like 50 percent capacity on buses, extra cleaning and handwashing as well as a students eating in classrooms.
While many agree with the need for face masks, they also say that brings up other concerns. “We’ve heard the challenges of kindergarten students having a face mask. We hear about out special needs students who may not be able to wear face masks,” says Dr. Fitzgerald.”And what recommendation will the committee make when a student at the middle school or high school level simply says I’m not going to wear a face mask.”
Officials say no matter what recommendations are finalized there will need to be compromise so they suggest starting to have conversations with kids about different scenarios. “If your kid’s question is: Am I going back to class in the fall? It’s totally okay for parents to say I’m not really sure but let’s talk about what you think about it,” says Dr. Walls.
By the first week of July these three different groups of officials will present recommendations to Delaware’s Secretary of Education. A statewide comprehensive plan should be created by July 15th.