Su­per­in­ten­dent Wil­liams lean­ing to­ward vir­tual start to school year

Board pre­sented with three sce­nar­ios for re-open­ing

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­pub.com

The Bal­ti­more County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing its school board meet­ing last week lis­tened to three sce­nar­ios un­der which schools may re­open in the fall.

The third op­tion, a full in-per­son open­ing, is con­tin­gent on the state and county both be­ing in Phase 3 of Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s “Roadmap to Re­cov­ery.”

Both the state and county are in Phase 2.

The first op­tion is full re­mote learn­ing by stu­dents, while the sec­ond op­tion is a hy­brid, with some stu­dents at­tend­ing school in-per­son and oth­ers con­tin­u­ing to use re­mote learn­ing.

No de­ci­sion has been made, but

Bal­ti­more County Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Dar­ryl L. Wil­liams left no doubt as to his pref­er­ence.

(The county school board held a spe­cial meet­ing on Tues­day after the Ea­gle went to press, dur­ing which it was to vote on a pro­posal to con­tinue re­mote learn­ing un­til Jan­uary 29. It is ex­pected to pass.)

“As we move for­ward to the open­ing of schools in the fall, there are a num­ber of un­knowns and mov­ing parts that have yet to be con­sid­ered,” Wil­liams said. “To that end, I am lean­ing to­wards a vir­tual re­open­ing with some kind of phasedin ap­proach after we open.”

Wil­liams quoted from a study he had read: “re­turn­ing to school is im­por­tant for the healthy de­vel­op­ment of chil­dren, but we must pur­sue re­open­ing in a way that is safe for all our stu­dents, teach­ers and staff.

“Sci­ence should drive de­ci­sion mak­ing on safely re­open­ing schools, and pub­lic health agen­cies must make rec­om­men­da­tions based on ev­i­dence, not politics.”

The three re-open­ing sce­nar­ios, as pre­sented by Bar­bara Burnopp and Dr. Re­nard Adams of cur­ricu­lum

op­er­a­tions, are:

Sce­nario One — As­sume the state and county are in Phase 1 of the re­cov­ery plan. En­hance­ments have been made to the re­mote learn­ing sys­tem based upon lessons learned last spring and feed­back from stu­dents, teach­ers and par­ents.

School phys­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties re­main closed, all teach­ing is done re­motely.

Sce­nario 2 — As­sume the state and county are in Phase 2 of the re­cov­ery plan (the cur­rent state). All stu­dents have live in­ter­ac­tion with teach­ers, ei­ther in-per­son or on­line. Mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies to pre­vent in­fec­tion with COVID-19 are re­quired.

Schools are open at 30 to 35 per­cent of ca­pac­ity, with stu­dents at­tend­ing school on an A Week/B Week/C Week ro­ta­tion; or schools open at 50 per­cent ca­pac­ity us­ing an A Week/B Week ro­ta­tion.

Teach­ers are on duty Mon­day through Fri­day, with Fri­day a plan­ning day. Stu­dents at­tend school Mon­day through Thurs­day, with Fri­day an on­line in­struc­tion day.

Stu­dents at­tend­ing school in-per­son would be co­horted by ad­dress.

Sce­nario 3 — As­sume the state and county are in Phase 3 of the “Roadmap” re­cov­ery plan. Mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures such as en­hanced clean­ing, screen­ing for symp­toms, iso­la­tion of sick per­sons and en­force­ment of quar­an­tines will be strictly re­quired.

So­cial dis­tanc­ing may be re­laxed, and face cov­er­ings may be op­tional. All stu­dents, teach­ers and staff re­turn to school build­ings.

Dr. Re­nard and Burnoff em­pha­sized the sce­nar­ios “were not a fi­nal­ized plan, but show the pa­ram­e­ters that have guided our think­ing while we gath­ered stake­holder in­put and feed­back.”

Also: “the de­ci­sion to open schools, how to open schools, or whether to con­tinue re­mote learn­ing, will be con­di­tions-based, not time­based.

“The de­ci­sions will be based on con­sid­er­a­tion of sci­ence-based trig­ger points ar­tic­u­lated by pub­lic health of­fi­cials along with any bind­ing di­rec­tives from state or lo­cal au­thor­i­ties; de­ci­sions will not be based on a fixed time­line. There will not be a pre­de­ter­mined time­line for re­sump­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties; rather will al­low the con­di­tion of the en­vi­ron­ment, and health guide­lines, to de­ter­mine what ac­tions are taken.”

For stu­dent safety in the event of sce­nario 2 or 3 be­ing used, the school sys­tem will use its mit­i­ga­tion strat­egy that has been ap­proved by the county health de­part­ment and aligns with guide­lines from the Cen­ter for Disease Con­trol:

So­cial dis­tanc­ing, screen­ing, healthy op­er­a­tions (no shared use of items, mak­ing sure in­door air is mixed with out­side air), clean­ing (build­ing sur­faces and in­di­vid­ual’s hands), com­mu­ni­ca­tions and re­sponses.

Stu­dents will also ad­here to safety pro­to­cols and par­tic­i­pate in drills, and vis­i­tors to the schools will be lim­ited and screened.

So­cial dis­tanc­ing will be prac­ticed on school buses will stu­dents seated one per row, and buses car­ry­ing be­tween nine and 21 stu­dents rather than 64.

All school sys­tems must present their fi­nal re­open­ing plans to the state by Au­gust 14.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Wil­liams also ex­pressed con­cern for stu­dents in a tran­si­tional year: kinder­garten to ele­men­tary schools, ele­men­tary to mid­dle school, and mid­dle to high school.

“Here is my con­cern,” Wil­liams said. “Kids are mak­ing a tran­si­tion to new lev­els, kids who have been dis-en­gaged for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. There has got to be some kind of phased-in ap­proach.

“I think at this point, based on my con­ver­sa­tions with col­leagues across Mary­land, it will serve us bet­ter to lean to a more vir­tual re­turn, to have some kind of phase-in. I think our young folks may need that.”

PHOTO BY MIKE URSERY

Stu­dents in grades 6-8 are ex­pected to re­turn to the Dun­dalk Mid­dle School build­ing un­til after Jan. 29, per a mo­tion voted on by the Bal­ti­more County School Board on July 21. The vote was held after this news­pa­per went to press.

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