HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — Harford County Schools is facing criticism after the district announced a hybrid learning plan which will get some students back into the classroom starting on March 1st.
Under the plan, elementary students will be among the first group to return on March 1st for one day a week.
Special education students and students in other specialized programs will also begin in-person learning 4 days a week.
Middle Schoolers and high schoolers will head back on the 15th of March.
The district has been fully virtual since November 13th.
The board’s decision follows Governor Larry Hogan’s call to reopen schools.
During a news conference last week, he said the evidence shows it’s safe to return while also citing low risk of transmission in schools.
“It just feels to me a little too late,” said Kimberly Rice, who has a kindergartner and second grader in the district.
Rice said both of them have had a hard time with virtual learning, but her youngest has been struggling the most.
“She was so excited to go to big kid school and start school and now she just sits at the computer. She’s bored and she cries,” she said.
For months, Rice and other parents have advocated for kids back in school buildings and her wish finally came true.
But, while she is “glad” her kids can return to the classroom, she said one day a week will not make up for the amount of in person instructions students missed over the past year.
“It’s not really fixing the problem in the learning gaps. They’re not going to be fixed in a week,” she said.
Rice said three to four days a week would have been more reasonable.
"We can do better," she said.
The district's decision is following new state guidelines to help schools open safely, which includes following CDC guidelines such as social distancing and mask wearing as well as the ability to control an outbreak.
The plan also took into account the county’s work to get teachers vaccinated, which is expected to take much longer because of the lack of vaccine supply, said Dr. David Bishai, who Harford County’s Health Officer
During the board meeting, Dr. Bishai also said the decision to reopen schools is solely a board decision, but expressed his concern about the possibility of people getting too lax when kids return to class.
“That’s going to be a problem,” he said. “We should be guarding against that.”