Gov. John Carney has ordered all public schools in Delaware to close for two weeks amid growing concerns about the coronavirus.
During the closure, which runs from March 16-27, schools will undergo a deep cleaning, and officials will prepare for future impacts, including "the potential impact of extended school closures," Carney said in a prepared statement Friday night.
"Delaware children deserve a world-class education, and ongoing access to services that are delivered in our schools each day," Carney said. "Many students – especially those from disadvantaged communities – also rely on school meals for nutrition, and other important social services. We will be working with districts to plan for providing learning opportunities and other meal and social services for our students in the event of an extended closure."
So far, Delaware has four confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The patients are all connected to the University of Delaware – a professor, two graduate students and a post-doctorate researcher – and all contracted the virus at an off-campus social event in February.
"In Delaware, we currently have no evidence of community-based COVID-19 and all cases are related to a single-exposure event," Carney said. "But we understand there is broad public concern, and the urgent need for preparation."
The governor's announcement followed the decision by two Newark schools – Newark Charter School and the Newark Center for Creative Learning – to close for at least two weeks.
NCCL closed beginning Friday after a member of the school community was exposed to coronavirus.
“We are complying with our Preparedness Plan for the protection and safety of the school and greater community,” the school said in a statement. “Classes are continuing via online learning options. We will continue to evaluate the situation and make decisions as new information is presented.”
The school plans to reopen March 30 unless the situation changes.
Meanwhile, Newark Charter will close Monday and remain closed for at least two weeks, Director Frank Newton wrote in a letter to parents.
“We hope that this decision will relieve stress on and safeguard our students, families and staff, expected stress on our medical resources and local hospitals, and protect the greater Newark community by slowing the spread of this virus,” Newton said.
No instruction or activities will take place during the closure.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and reassess over the next few weeks to observe and respond to the shifting landscape and watch how conditions change with the hope of re-opening,” Newton said. “Should conditions improve to the level when school is able to open and resume, we will do so. Should conditions be such that reopening school is not prudent, we will inform you of that also and what the hybrid plan may be as we continue.”
He encouraged students and parents to stay home and minimize contact with others.
“You should make choices that minimize interaction in the community to limit the virus’s ability to spread,” he said. “It will be ineffective as a strategy to close schools if people do not make the decision to self-sequester.”
Newark Charter indefinitely suspended spring sports, including games and practices. The school also canceled a number of events, including a field trip to New York City and a spring break trip to Costa Rica.