By Mike McClure

The Delmar School Board was updated on the district’s back to school plans during Tuesday’s board meeting. Following public comments from a pair of citizens opposed to requiring masks in school, Board President Farrah Morelli thanked the community members for speaking out and provided them with contact info for legislators and the Delaware Department of Education (DOE).

“I applaud you for standing up for your community and coming here to speak out,” said Morelli, who like her fellow board members did not wear a mask during the meeting.“We need to continue to stick up for our children. I believe all of us are feeling the same way you are.”

Delmar resident Jacob Boothe speaks against the mask requirement in schools during Tuesday’s Delmar School Board meeting. Boothe was one of two citizens who spoke against the state’s mandate. Photo by Mike McClure

Prior to the public participation, Superintendent Charity Phillips and the district’s administrators reported on back to school plans. Phillips said Governor Carney’s mask requirement began for K-12 schools in the state on Monday. Students, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks when students are present at the schools. Phillips added that masks will be recommended even when students are not present.

Delmar High School principal Mike Bleile said virtual learning is not an option this year. He added that after the sixth mask referral to the office, students will face consequences for being defiant.

Delmar Middle School principal Andy O’Neal said social distancing has been reduced from six feet to three feet. Students will be seated three feet apart from one another.

There will also be plexiglass installed in the middle of cafeteria tables so that students can sit across from each other while they are eating.

“These masks do not prevent this virus,” Jacob Boothe said, referring to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Why are we wearing masks with our kids?”

Boothe added that the governor’s decision was made without the input of state legislators. “We all have a voice. This is the United States of America last time I checked,” said Boothe.

“You are the front line to our children,” Boothe told the board, asking board members to put pressure on Governor Carney. “Let us make the choice.”

Boothe said he is considering sending his 11th grader to private school if masks are required. But he also said he is not done speaking out.

“I’m not done, the school board is just the beginning,” said Boothe. “I’m not living in fear, I’m done with fear. We are hurting our children, we are not helping them.”

Dawn Litchford, who does not have a student in the district, also spoke out against masks. She believes long term mask wearing has detrimental effects to the health of children and adults.

“I have a concern for all of the kids,” she said. “To me these side effects (mental and physical) are more alarming than COVID.”

“Again we find ourselves faced with what seems like an impossible situation,” said Litchford, who asked the board to look out for the students. “If this is not something you are willing to do I ask you all to reconsider why you wanted to serve on the board.”

“I assure you we are doing the best that we can,” Morelli responded. “We are not paid and we seldom receive a thank you. Serving in this political climate is incredibly difficult.”

Morelli said she reviewed the mask order, which was signed by Secretary of Education Susan Bunting. She encouraged the community members to attend the state board of education meeting (tonight), in person or online. She also pointed out that the State Board Vice President is former Delmar School Board member Shawn Brittingham.

“We sit here and we support you,” said Morelli.

“As a board we do not make that decision (masks),” board member Thomas Elliott said. “The more people that get pushing at the governor and get the train rolling the better off we’re going to be.”

“We’re five voices, we need more voices,” added Morelli.