All Delaware schools will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
Gov. John Carney made the announcement Friday afternoon at a daily press briefing on the coronavirus. Remote learning, which schools have shifted to, will continue. Carney's office has been in touch with private schools, and they also are expected to stay closed as well.
"Today we’re making it official that the schools will remain closed for students until the end of this school year, but we expect that schools and teachers would finish out the last two months as they have been with remote learning and get as much instructional time and learning with their students as much as possible," Carney said. "There’s obviously no replacement for in-person instruction in classrooms, in terms of relationships and services, but obviously doing what we can between now and what would have been the school year, we want to get as much benefit for our students as possible."
The announcement had been anticipated. Last week in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, he had said schools would likely stay closed for the rest of the academic year. Schools were initially shut down until March 30 under his first state of emergency and later pushed back to a May 18 reopening. Carney at the time said he was waiting for more information.
The news came as Carney announced coronavirus cases in Delaware had climbed to almost 3,500 with 100 deaths. Carney said the state will not reopen until the cases started to decline and widespread testing was available.
Delaware joins more than two dozen other states, including neighboring Pennsylvania, which has closed schools for the academic year. Mass school closures have affected about 55.1 million students in the U.S., as schools have pivoted to remote learning through online assignments, video lessons or printed packets for students without internet access.
The Diocese of Wilmington also announced it would close all school buildings for the remainder of the school year in both Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Distance learning for students will continue through the end of the academic term for all parish and diocesan elementary and high schools.
After Carney made his announcement about the state's public schools, district superintendents reached out to parents.
"While this announcement will undoubtedly generate more questions for everyone, it also provides clarity for the District in our planning for the remainder of the school year. We will continue to work collaboratively with the Delaware Department of Education to plan for the remainder of this school year, assess transition, and then continue to adjust and transform practices for the return to school for the 2020-2021 school year once the governor and public health officials determine it is safe to return," said Richard L. Gregg of Christina School District in a statement.
Dorrell Green, superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District, assured parents that remote learning would continue and that they were looking into ways to honor the graduating class of 2020.
"This was not an easy decision for the Governor to make. We are all disappointed and saddened by this outcome but know it is the right one to ensure the safety of our students, staff and families," Green said on the department's website.
"I encourage our superintendents to start planning for a summer learning and instruction and a summer food distribution and preparation for the new school year next year," Carney said. Carney said that he knew it was on superintendents' minds to recognize graduating seniors and urged them to think of ways to do so.
Most districts have started planning. Cape Henlopen School District Superintendent Bob Fulton announced that high school seniors would have a virtual graduating on June 9 and that district leaders are still working on the details for it. The last day for pre-K to 11th graders would be June 12.
"While we are saddened by this news as we miss our students, we know the health of our students, staff and community is most important," Fulton said.