DOVER — Growing up in an abusive home, Lisa McCulley said going to school turned out to be a safe haven for her.
That’s why Ms. McCulley, founder and director of Stand Up Delaware, hosted a “Reopen School Rally” that attracted around 200 teachers, coaches, parents and children to the steps of Legislative Hall Monday evening with dozens of colored, homemade signs.
“Our children have suffered enough,” Ms. McCulley said. “Society should be doing everything in their power to protect us, not just from a virus, because there are other things besides a virus, and that is clearly not happening today. The majority of the United States’ schools are open. Are we really the First State? Because it seems like we are the last.”
Gabe Armstrong, a seventh-grader in the Cape Henlopen School District, said he has not been excelling with virtual learning.
“I was a very social person but now I can’t see any (of my friends) and I just stay in my room,” he said. “I’m not doing good in school and it makes me feel bad about myself. I want school to be open five days a week.”
The participants in the “Reopen School Rally” said that it’s not only the students who are being shortchanged by not being able to attend school in-person, but the parents also suffer.
“I want the schools reopened,” Cape Henlopen parent Ashley Murray said. “I want our kids back in school five days a week getting the education that they deserve.
“The amount of frustration and stress that this has brought into homes, especially for working-class families that are trying to both work jobs, and then doing remote learning and trying to make sure your kids are on it, it’s a struggle. They’re not learning anything and a lot of it is pretty much self-taught.”
With the number of coronavirus cases on the decline in Delaware and the majority of children having stronger immune systems than adults, the group that gathered at the state capitol building said it is time to reopen public schools throughout the state.
Ms. McCulley thought back to her childhood and said many children are being held captive in bad, abusive situations.
“Growing up in an abusive home, I was concerned for children in similar situations being locked out, isolated in a place where people should feel safe, but do not,” she said. “Everything they have is an escape – but every resource, every break that they had from their home life was stripped of them.
“As for me as a child, I loved school. My school was my haven, my safe place and my teachers were literally my heroes.
“We have children suffering from depression and mental issues who are not being helped. Many of those children relied on their schools, their school clubs, music and arts programs, sports and other extracurricular activities.”
She suggested that Gov. John Carney and the state’s school districts should have a choice for all students to return to school full-time. Any student or family that isn’t ready to return yet can still participate in remote learning, leaving it up to each district to see how that will look.
To loud cheers, Ms. McCulley said it is past time to fully reopen Delaware’s public schools, especially if places such as private schools, Walmarts, grocery stores, restaurants and other places such as gyms are allowed to operate.
“Your frustrations and trials did not go unnoticed — maybe by the governor — but it’s not gone unnoticed by many of us. We all care and that’s why we’re here today,” she said to the crowd. “I want you all to know that you are not alone. It’s time to make this right for everyone – especially our students.”