ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. — The Anne Arundel County school board voted in favor of a hybrid learning model, which aims to bring some students and teachers back into the classroom by March 1st.
"Extending our virtual learning into early March will give us time to work with our Department of Health to implement our vaccine administration plan for our school system employees," said Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent Dr. George Arlotto.
Dr. Arlotto recommended the start date as he anticipates many county schools employees will be vaccinated by the end of next month
"I would feel much more confident that if are staff was vaccinated through the month of February that we can hit the target date of that first week, possibly March 1st," he said.
Dr. Arlotto said the plan will be to bring teachers and small group priority students back mid-February followed by pre-k and elementary school kids.
He said all students could return at the end of March as more teachers receive the vaccine.
"We would not be able to inoculate people all at once and then bring people back," Dr. Arlotto said.
The superintendent cautioned that the reopening plan is subject to change based on COVID-19 metrics and vaccine availability.
Dr. Arlotto said following COVID-19 metrics will continue to be important in deciding whether to open schools, but he added a vaccine is a game changer.
"If we got our staff vaccinated, then that changes the calculus with regard to metrics," he said. "We would begin to bring staff and students back into buildings with them being vaccinated."
Dr. Arlotto warned that it is possible a school could get shutdown if there is an outbreak.
Before the board's decision, teachers and parents from both sides of the school reopening argument shared their concerns.
"The responsible thing to do is to look at the science. Look at the numbers. Wait until we see numbers in decline, said Jerry Groves who is Anne Arundel County Teacher. "We need to get back to schools but now is not the time."
“My daughter has not seen another teen unless forced to," said Lori Smith. "These children need a choice to be in person. How our children's social, emotional and mental development factor into the board’s decision.
Dr. Arlotto said teachers will not be mandated to get the vaccine.
He also said social distancing, mask wearing and other CDC guidelines will still be followed.