The Delaware Department of Education has a four-prong plan to help kids catch up in school, Education Secretary Susan Bunting said Wednesday night during a COVID-19 Town Hall.
“We do admit that there has been a disruption to our learning year. Our task as dedicated educators is to make sure we’re filling in for some of that lost learning time as we look at the summer and the opportunities we might have,” Bunting said. “So, my gratitude goes out to those that have adjusted very quickly to a new way of instruction.”
The plans will largely be funded by federal COVID money.
Bunting’s comments came after a round-up of weekly statistics and news that the state will offer walk-in vaccines.
Much of the catch-up plan involves students to return to school for summer sessions.
The first prong, which Bunting considered the heart of the plan, is for Delaware schools to now have access to high quality instructional materials. All Delaware schools will be able to obtain the licensing to use materials such as Zearn Math for all students between 1st and 8th grade. The Department of Education also is creating a literacy program for students in 1st through 5th grade.
These high-quality instructional materials will be pulled from a national list from Education Week, a news organization that covers kindergarten through 12th grade classes. School districts will be able to choose their own instructional materials, Bunting said.
The second prong of the plan is to support training and professional learning in and effort to support learning acceleration. This training would be available to teachers as well as summer camp instructors and other non-profit educators. This training would take place before programs begin and would continue after they start.
The third prong of the plan is to use data to drive instructional placement. School systems will use an assessment system, which would help to determine which students need help and in what subjects. The data will also drive the creation of lesson plans.
The fourth and final prong of the plan is to support and supplement districts based on need. Bunting said that this could be through manpower, hiring on extra educators and study groups where they are needed.
Bunting said the state wants to help students be prepared for the fall semester starting in September.
“The focus is going to be on helping all of our children,” Bunting said. “We have a very dedicated staff; they’re looking at what they need to do to provide the extra learning opportunities that our students need at this point and deserve. So together we will make this happen all through this summer and into next school year.”
Impact of variants
While Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health said that positive case rates and hospitalizations has dropped a small bit in the last week, statistics show a marked increase in the percentage of cases caused by variant strains of COVID-19.
This week, 66% of the random tests checked by the state Health Lab came back positive as some kind of variant. That suggest that these variants, which can spread much more easily that the strain that raced through Delaware a year ago, are more prevalent throughout the state than previously believed.
Each week DPH takes a portion of positive COVID-19 tests and determines if they’re one of the many variants of the disease.
The U.K. and New York B.1.536 variants are the most common throughout Delaware. So far, the state has found 174 cases of the U.K. variant and 119 cases of the New York variant.
Positive test rates dropped back to 5.4% over the last week. The state wants that to be under 5%. The seven-day average of positive cases is 266, down from the 300s. Covid-related hospitalizations now stand at 149.
Rattay said 18 zip codes have larger infection rates than the state would like, most of them in Kent and New Castle County.
Rattay and Gov. John Carney said one reason cases have declined after a few weeks of increases is the state’s strong vaccination efforts.
They said 725,190 vaccines have been distributed and 281,013 Delawareans have been fully vaccinated throughout the state. That includes 86.5% of residents 65 years and older, with 51.6% of all residents ages 16 and up have been at least partially vaccinated.
The state has a new webpage allowing residents to see multiple options in one place so they can find a vaccination appointment. State officials have said for weeks that their clinics were no longer full, and on Wednesday said that pharmacies also were having vaccine slots that were left open. The state website can be found here.
Publie Health has opened walk-in hours for vaccinations at 5 public health clinics throughout the state of Delaware.
The walk-up clinics are offering the Pfizer vaccine, which is only available to those ages 18 and above. These clinics are located on DART bus routes in Dover, Georgetown, Milford, Seaford and Wilmington, and are handicapped accessible. Hours for these walk-up clinics are 8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and then 1:15 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In New Castley County, the shots are available at Porter Public Health Clinic, 509 W. 8th St., 2nd floor, Wilmington.
In Kent County, find them at Williams Public Health Clinic, 805 River Road, Dover; and Riverwalk Public Health Clinic, 253 NE Front St., Milford.
In Sussex County, they are at Adams Public Health Clinic, 546 S. Bedford St., Georgetown and Shipley Public Health Clinic, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford