It’s back to school on Wednesday for students in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County, Maryland, public schools.
After 18 months in virtual learning formats, the school systems will kick off the school year with five days a week of in-person instruction.
The return to schools follows a surge of COVID-19 cases in Maryland. All but one jurisdiction, Talbot County, have been listed as “high” transmission areas.
George Arlotto, the superintendent for Anne Arundel County Schools, taped a message to returning students and their parents last month.
“Except for students enrolled in our virtual academy, we will deliver instruction face-to-face five days a week in classrooms this year,” Arlotto said. There will be no plans for hybrid instruction, he added.
Limited virtual learning
Prince George’s County is providing a virtual learning program for students in grades K-6. It’s designed to phase out once a vaccine is available to students under age 12.
Prince George’s County also created what it calls an online campus for a limited number of students in grades seven through 12. A total of 700 slots have opened with waitlist applications that were due in mid-August.
The Maryland Department of Education’s statewide mandate will also affect school systems. Students and staff will have to wear masks indoors and on school buses.
Prince George’s County Schools will also require all staff — including bus drivers — to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those employees who opt out will face frequent testing, according to Monica Goldson, Ph.D., the chief executive officer for the school system.
Anne Arundel County public schools discussed vaccine requirement for staff, but have yet to adopt a mandate.
Arlotto said the school system would work to ensure that students are socially distanced “as is appropriate.”
What if my school has a COVID-19 case?
According to the Prince George’s County school system, schools will provide written notification to staff or families in cases where there’s been potential COVID-19 exposure.
If there is a confirmed COVID-19 case in a school or classroom, the infected person will have to quarantine for 10 days. They must be symptom-free before they are allowed to return to school.
Those exposed to COVID-19 also will quarantine for 10 days if they’re unvaccinated. Fully vaccinated students or staff are encouraged to monitor their symptoms for 14 days and don’t have to quarantine at home.
Prince George’s County Public Schools said if a single positive case of COVID-19 is confirmed, the school will close the area where the exposure took place. If multiple cases are confirmed in one site within three days, PGCPS will close the entire facility to sanitize it.
In Anne Arundel County, if a child develops symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, the student is isolated in a school quarantine area. There, they are assessed by the school’s health staff, who will contact the child’s family to take them home.
From that point, parents will receive guidance on quarantine and COVID-19 testing.
For confirmed cases, the school will follow instructions from the county’s health department on quarantine and return to school. The school system’s contact-tracing team will direct the school on the next steps on addressing those who had close contact.
The Anne Arundel County school system has roughly 85,000 students served by 128 schools; Prince George’s County, one of the state’s largest school systems, has 208 schools and education centers with 136,500 students.