ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Arlotto said the district is working to increase the number of students inside some classrooms after the CDC released new guidance on distancing.
The CDC’s new guidance recommends elementary school students be at least three feet apart in classrooms regardless of community transmission as long as they are wearing masks.
But the agency also said secondary students should stay six feet apart in areas where transmission is high. All students must be six feet apart outside when they’re not wearing a mask such as when they’re eating.
Dr. Arlotto said there is still room to add more students even at six feet distancing.
He said he’s given principals the green light to clear a wait list of students who are interested in hybrid learning, which is currently two days a week.
The district will push for four days a week, starting with priority needs groups and those struggling with virtual learning as early as next Tuesday, Dr Arlotto said.
It could take time for more secondary students to return because the rate of community transmission is considered high.
“The vision would be that we will add students vertically in each of the cohorts and then after when we added vertically and there are no more takers then we can begin to look at adding horizontally more days of the week,” he said.
Dr. Arlotto talked about the challenges of implementing the CDC’s guidance during a special meeting on the issue Tuesday.
He said one of his concerns is bus capacity which did not change under the new guidance.
“We are left with no additional space on buses,” Dr. Arlotto said. “We still have one child per seat.”
He also said more kids would need to be quarantined due to contact tracing protocols.
“If they remain at 6 feet, which we are told they are, that will significantly increase the number of students that will have to go into quarantining,” Dr. Arlotto said.
Entire classrooms could be quarantined, which is something they haven’t had to do all year, he said.
The school board also passed a motion to bring priority needs groups back to school for four days a week as soon as possible.
Dr. Arlotto and the board stressed the importance of using input from parents on both sides of the reopening argument in what they decide moving forward.
“There are many as you have said that are asking for no change and we got into a routine as a family, we got day care, child care taken care of and things are working. Then there are others who are saying it’s not working for my child. My child needs to be in four days if not 5 days a week.
The next school board meeting is scheduled for April 7th at noon.
The school board also passed the following resolution:
Let it hereby be resolved that the Board of Education fully supports the plans outlined during the meeting of March 30, 2021 whereby it was advised that as many choices as possible will be acted upon to add additional hybrid opportunities for both 2 day and 4 day choices within the most recent CDC guidelines and recognizing the operational hiring and health issues that exist; and that it occur as soon as possible.