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Parents, GOP candidates rally to urge Carney to reopen schools full time

Natalia Alamdari Amanda Parrish
Delaware News Journal

DOVER – Since her children started the school year online, Cindy Meisinger said every day has been torture. Her first- and third-grader are struggling with distractions and connectivity issues with Zoom calls and are given busy work to get them through the school day.

"The first two weeks my 6-year-old cried every single day. He still says he hates school," Meisinger, whose kids are in the Caesar Rodney School District, said. "To expect a 6-year-old to sit at a computer screen for five and a half hours of the day is unrealistic."

Meisinger along with many other parents, children and GOP candidates gathered Thursday evening outside the Department of Education in Dover to protest virtual and hybrid learning, asking Gov. John Carney to allow public and charter schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

Cindy Meisinger stands with her family at a rally in Dover Oct. 1, asking Gov. John Carney to fully reopen schools.

The push for schools to fully reopen comes as most move toward offering hybrid options by mid-October. In some districts, parents continue to await what that might look like. In others, like Red Clay Consolidated School District, hybrid plans were met with more questions than answers. 

More:Red Clay's hybrid learning plans leave parents with more questions than answers

Lisa McCulley, the leader of Stand Up Delaware, helped organize the protest with Appoquinimink School District parents Tristan and Terran Germann, who started the Facebook group Delaware Students Deserve to Be in School.

McCulley is a Middletown resident whose son would have been a senior at Appoquinimink High School this year. But she decided to enroll him in an online private school instead after the district announced its plans for remote learning.

"Because the online learning was terrible, the first week we pulled him out and now he is doing an online curriculum that is a proven curriculum, rather than one that is thrown together," she said.

School reopening is the latest in a string of pushes to reopen the economy in Delaware during the pandemic.

In May, protesters in Dover called on Carney to lift emergency restrictions made in light of the pandemic. Last month, parents gathered to urge the Appoquinimink School District to offer full-time in-person learning. That same day, parent pressure pushed the state to change course and approve the start of fall high school sports.

Children and parents rallied outside of the Department of Education Oct. 1 to urge Gov. John Carney to fully reopen schools.

Jessica Rosser, who has three children in the Cape Henlopen School District, said she struggles to make sure her kids are focused and do their schoolwork.

"I go to work overnight. I come home at 7 a.m., and I am expected to stay awake all day and get my kids to stay online. It has been exhausting," the emergency medical technician said to the crowd of protesters.

Rosser wants the governor to end the state of emergency and not require students to wear masks in school.

"If we can go to a restaurant and eat without a mask on, our children should be able to sit at a desk without one," she said.

Earlier Thursday, the Delaware Republican Party also called on the state to fully reopen schools. 

While most public school students are taking part in some form of virtual learning, students in parochial and private schools are benefiting from fully in-person learning, said Jane Brady, chair of the Republican Party.

“The impact of diminished access to education on our students can be lifelong, and we must act quickly,” Brady said. “Let children learn five days a week. ... Let them have hands-on experience with chemistry and biology and technology classes. Open our schools.”

Outside the Bancroft School in Wilmington, Brady called for changes to Delaware’s educational system in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Give poor parents the ability to choose to educate their children at home or in their church or with a group of other parents,” Brady said. “Allow them to make choices that are best for their children.”

Addressing the crowd in Dover, Republican candidate for governor Julianne Murray said she told Carney the state shouldn't be focused on stopping the spread of COVID-19 but should stop "spreading hysteria and fear."