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Baltimore County Public Schools opts for 'wait and see' approach, leaves door open for in-person learning

Posted at 10:52 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 15:38:09-05

BALTIMORE — Concerned over a rise in COVID-19 cases, several school districts in Maryland are putting the brakes on in-person learning.

Baltimore County Schools did just that last week -- postponing its plan that would’ve brought students back as early November 16th.

On Tuesday, the school board in Baltimore County did not vote for virtual learning for the rest of the semester.

The board instead opting for a wait and see approach.

They will keep kids at home due to troubling COVID-19 numbers in the county which is what several other schools districts have decided. Now, with that said, the board says if all goes well students could return as early as December 14th and of course that’s if the health metrics allow it.

Board members say in order to reopen those metrics will have to be stable for at least two weeks. Two of the metrics they are looking at will be the positivity rate and cases per 100,000.

Right now the plan is a phased-in approach where students with special needs would return first, next would be Pre-k to second grade and then the remaining students would come back.

This would be a hybrid model as well with students still having the option to learn virtually. During the meeting, some parents expressed concerns about kids not being able to learn in person while others discussed their reservations about the reopening plan.

"Is anyone discussing the excessive amount of screen time for our kids, the isolation, the anxiety, the depression, the behavior changes, the decrease in grades we cannot waste anymore time," said parent Mary Taylor. "Kids should have been in school since September. We lost two and a half months of valuable in person learning."

Cindy Sexton, President of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County said there are many needs and concerns to be addressed.

"Not just the workload but PPE, health metrics that would necessitate a return from virtual instruction and the biggest question more than any other, all the concerns around HVAC systems," Sexton said.

Some of those concerns were addressed in Tuesday's meeting where school officials said PPE will be given to staff and students.

The board said HVAC systems at many county schools have been checked or renovated.

In the meeting, the board said the plan to reopen will be reassessed using the time they have to address any other concerns people may have.

On Wednesday, BCPS released a detailed plan for returning small groups of students in Preschool through Grade 2 to school buildings for hybrid (at-school and at-home) learning.

The date of return will depend on meeting both state and local metrics.

That Preschool through Grade 2 Reentry Plan was presented to the Board of Education of Baltimore County at Monday night’s meeting and is organized into three parts: Health and Safety, System and School Operations, and Instructional Model.

You can view the reopening plan here.