The panel also agreed to start sports next month.
Frederick, Md (KM) A hybrid plan for Frederick County Public Schools to reopen to students was adopted Wednesday by the Board of Education. The vote was six in favor and one abstention.
Under the hybrid plan, students would take part in in-person classroom instruction two days a week, and then participate in virtual lessons the other three days. Students would be divided into cohorts. One cohort would attend classes Mondays and Tuesdays, and a second would go to s school building Thursdays and Fridays.
Board of Ed President Brad Young says this plan allows for modifications. “Decisions to modify the implementation of the hybrid model or small group instruction would be determined by the superintendent in collaboration with the Frederick County Health Department based on a review of the metrics and guidance outlined by the Maryland State Department of Health,” he says.
Schools in Maryland were closed in March to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Under this hybrid plan, support employees will begin returning to work on January 1st. Teachers will start up on January 13th, and students will return on January 28th.
Student School Board Member Mia Martinez says she polled her fellow students, and found more than 200 students, or 74%, were most comfortable with a hybrid model, and and less than 85 students, or less than 85,or 26%, felt comfortable going to school virtually. “As for the messages, I had multiple students tell me that they’re tired, unmotivated and stressed,” she said. “I had one student communicate with me the difficulty of learning on line with ADHD. Another expressed their worries on their grades dropping tremendously. And another telling how being in school actually makes them want to learn.”
During the discussion, Board of Ed Member Liz Barrett, who was taking part in the meeting over the phone because she has contracted COVID-19, says she supports the hybrid model, but believes virtual learning should also be an option. “Because I think we’re going to need that for the spring. We’re certainly going to need it that for the spring,” she said. “We’re going to need it for the future because we are going to have people for any number of reasons who are going to stay virtual as we deal with the pandemic, and maybe other situations.”
Dr. Lois Jarman abstained from voting. She lost her election bid, and said this decision should be left to the new Board of Ed members who are coming in. “I appreciate your statements about being an elected official. But the new guard comes in in less than three weeks. And I believe this is a new guard that campaigned on opening schools, and I believe the decision should rest with them,” Jarman said.
In a separate vote, the Board of Education adopted the Return To Play Committee’s recommendations to restart sports next month. The plan says the first practice date is December 7th, with January 4th as the first competition date., and the last play date would be February 13th.
The vote was four in favor, two opposed and one abstention.
Voting in opposition was Board member Liz Barrett, who had some concerns. “I recognize that every single one of these decisions is a risk-based decision,” she said. “It is trying to create the atmosphere to reduce risk and transmission And I think that in a classroom, where we can seat students five to six feet apart, or on a bus where we can open windows and space students. But on a volleyball court, or a basketball court or a wrestling mat, I don’t see how students engaged in those activities could not exchange droplets between themselves. That’s just how sports go.”
Dr. Randall Culpepper with the Health Department, says the evidence is lacking when it comes to transmission of the coronavirus through sports. “We are doing everything we can and I think we will do to mitigate the risk,” he said. “We don’t have evidence that there is transmission within a sports team in this county or in this state. We don’t have evidence of transmission, significant transmission, within a school yet.”
The winter sports covered by this Return To Play decision are basketball, swimming and diving, indoor track, wrestling, cheerleading and unified bocce.
By Kevin McManus