Officials with Charles County Public Schools in Maryland are limiting or canceling some upcoming indoor events and implementing tougher COVID-19 testing procedures to curb the spread of the pandemic.
While students and staff will continue in-person learning, CCPS is canceling high school homecoming and middle school dances until further notice. Homecoming games, which take place outdoors, will still go ahead.
The school system said the dances could be held later in the school year.
“Our thought is that there could be a time … depending on how health conditions go, perhaps we could do something later in the year, maybe a winter formal, but no promises on that,” Marvin Jones, executive director of schools for CCPS, told WTOP.
“The goal for this particular social event is to socialize in pretty close quarters,” he added. “So at this point, it just didn’t seem like the most responsible decision for us to move forward with those dances.”
Jones said it was tough decision to make because homecoming dances are milestones for many students and a sign of a return to normalcy. However, he said, people’s health and safety had to be the priority.
In the end, Jones said he believed the decision is “right and responsible.”
In addition to canceling dances, upcoming open houses and back-to-school nights will now be held virtually. CCPS said the dates and times of the events will be as close as possible to the original schedule that was posted earlier in the school year.
CCPS held in-person meet-and-greet events for parents and students in August. As a result, some COVID-19 cases were reported to the school system involving sick visitors who were in attendance, according to a news release.
School administrators are also being asked to offer meetings such as parent conferences virtually or outdoors when possible.
Meanwhile, in-person field trips for students will be restricted to regional locations that include Charles County and southern Prince George’s County. This does not apply to high school athletics, most of which are scheduled in Southern Maryland and require students to undergo weekly COVID-19 screening if they are not vaccinated.
Field trip permission forms will require parents to agree to pick up their child during a trip if they become symptomatic. CCPS said that limiting field trips will also help staff conduct contact tracing.
The school system is also changing its COVID-19 testing protocols. Students with a known exposure who want to test out of quarantine after seven days with a negative COVID-19 test must now visit their doctor, use an outside vendor or test through the Charles County Department of Health. Families can also choose to quarantine their child for 10 days and return to school without testing.
Similar protocols apply to staff, who can no longer get a COVID-19 test at school if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. Rather, they must go to their doctor, use an outside vendor or test through the department, or they can wait out the full 10 days of quarantine.
Rapid tests will only be administered by nurses at their discretion for students or staff who display severe COVID-19 symptoms. Any student or staff member who pre-screens as potentially positive for COVID-19 will be offered a PCR test. Staff and students may not return to school or school-related activities until the results of that test are known. If they refuse the PCR test, they will be excluded from the classroom and school activities for 10 days.
CCPS is also asking children (and staff) to stay home if:
- They are sick;
- They have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person in the last seven days (and are not vaccinated);
- Live with someone who is COVID-19 positive (and are not vaccinated);
- Are in quarantine due to another exposure or waiting for a COVID-19 test result.
WTOP has reached out to other D.C.-area school systems to see if they are also canceling or restricting indoor events such as homecoming dances.
Montgomery County Public Schools, Fairfax County Public Schools and Arlington County Public Schools said they have not yet made decisions.
WTOP’s Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.
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