Letter from State Rep. Ruth Briggs King 37th District

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With each day it seems new issues emerge as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge Delaware citizens. And, each day I work to investigate the issues and find the answers to help cool heated situations.

During the past week I worked to get answers to questions to the Division of Professional Regulation from those needing to apply for a professional license or to renew such a license. I quickly realized that communicating with the agency was somewhat difficult. To follow-up on customer concerns, I spoke with the new Executive Director, Geoffrey Christ, who was most helpful. The Division of Professional Regulation, after 18 months of planning and testing a program, moved to an online system to make things smoother for applicants and licensees. It is safe to say, things did not go as planned. However, since July, they have been working to fix the system issues, only to be met by an increase of phone calls by frustrated customers. And, like me, many callers to the agency experienced a problem with the phone system not taking messages, etc. The good news: Staff has been shifted so more workers are addressing the issues. So, if you have a question or concern with Delaware Division of Professional Regulation for testing, licensing, etc. the best way to get assistance is through email: Customerservice.dpr@delaware.gov.

A bigger and more complex concern is the social, emotional, and physical needs of our students, parents, and teachers in Delaware. It is a very confusing time for everyone as we strive to make good decisions that may impact our youth. Each district is left to make their “local” decision and each district has a unique plan. Like many legislators, I have students in four or more school districts with each making their own decisions about when they will reopen and how they will reopen. Each district is walking the proverbial “tight rope.” Each Executive Order issued by the Governor’s Office brings a new set of guidelines or clarifications and adjustments are required. It seems every day contains another “surprise” that must be addressed. And, what surprises many is that legislators continue to have no say in the decision-making process and, frequently, have no knowledge until the “surprise” is released.

As a grandparent, I watched my eldest granddaughter, age 11, struggle with her feelings of loss. Since March, she has lost in-classroom instruction, physical contact with her friends, her sports program, and so much more. She was not her usual happy self. Her mental health and the ramifications of these decisions are as important as her physical health.

I have regular contact with two of the Superintendents in the Districts I represent. They seem to be doing the best in the worst of this situation. The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association (DIAA) decided to postpone fall sports. Because many students, mostly high school students, do not return to the hybrid or in-school program until November, the delay of fall sports has created much controversy. As many of you have also learned, the DIAA Board of Directors voted in favor of a “Return to Play” plan, which designates the winter season to begin in December, the fall season in mid-February 2021, and the spring season in mid-April 2021. This would mean six weeks of winter sports, followed by fall sports, and then spring sports. Naturally, like many of you, I was confused, wondering about “how can you play field hockey, soccer, or football in the snow?” That is why we have different seasons for each sport.

I did contact a representative with the DIAA and was told the issue will likely be revisited during the September State Board of Education meeting. I asked how parents and others could communicate with the State Board and was advised for parents to email with comments and concerns. Interested citizens can share their concerns over the DIAA decision by contacting the DIAA Board of Directors at Delaware Department of Education, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover, DE 19904 or by emailing their concerns to DIAA@doe.k12.de.us. The Board of Directors for the DIAA is scheduled to meet on September 10th at 9:00 a.m. This will be a virtual meeting. The meeting access information will be available on publicmeetings.delaware.gov. The next State Board of Education meeting is set for September 17th at 5:00 p.m. For more information on that virtual meeting, please visit doe.k12.de.us. (For the latest guidance from the Governor’s office on fall sports, please see the next story.)

As an engaged representative, I have always sought to inquire, investigate, and communicate key concerns to you. It is my hope that I have done that with this important update.

Sincerely,
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King
37th District