HOWARD COUNTY — Parents and students in Howard County rallied outside of the Board of Education building, urging school leaders to reopen for in-person learning.
The rally was held at the same time the board was meeting virtually to discuss the reopening plan.
“I do work in the medical profession. I want to be smart about it," said Brenda Webbert, who has two 10th graders in the county school system. "Obviously, I don’t want teachers, grandma and everyone to die, but we need to have good faith and try.”
The group believes more focus needs to be put on how shutting down schools have impacted kids' mental health.
“You do not remodel the upper floor of your house when your basement is flooding," said Colleen Meyer, one of the creators of the Reopen HOCO schools Facebook group. "Our children and their mental health is in that basement that’s flooding.”
To date, Howard County has had nearly 3,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 130 people have died. The positivity rate is also 2.5 percent.
With safety as the top priority, the board decided students will learn virtually until January.
“I miss my friends like no other. I haven’t seen them since we closed school," said Morgan Stolba who is a senior and also a cheerleader.
Stolba said she hopes she can finish out her final year of high school in-person.
“I never in a million years imagine spending it like am right now," she said.
The board is considering to go with a hybrid model in February, but some of the members are concerned about a possible fall surge of COVID-19 cases.
During the meeting, some of the board members expressed concerns about a potential outbreak once schools reopen, which could have them revert back to virtual learning.
The board also talked about building blocks to safely reopen such as mitigation efforts and the county's ability to follow and enforce CDC guidelines.
As one board member put it, we are all in uncharted territory because of the pandemic, highlighting a difficult decision school districts face across the country.