Things may not look normal yet with everyone wearing masks, but Frederick County, Maryland, took a major step toward normalcy Wednesday when it opened its public school buildings at full capacity.
While schools were open for programs over the summer and the county opened buildings last year for “hybrid classes” — a mix of in-person and virtual classes — Wednesday marked the first time in 15 months that buildings were fully open for in-person education.
“That first-day excitement is back,” said David Franceschina, Frederick High School principal.
According to Franceschina, there were around 400 kids in his building during hybrid classes last year. Now, there are roughly 1,700.
“Pep rallies, dances and all the fun stuff about school that we couldn’t do last year because of the pandemic — we’re going to bring it back,” Franceschina said.
The county has about 44,000 students in its public school system, and more than 95% of them returned to in-person classes. About 1,000 students chose to be in an all-virtual program.
“Enrollment for the virtual school is closed right now because they’re at capacity,” said Franceschina. “There is a waiting list for any families who would like to get on the list.”
All students and staff members are required to wear masks while inside school buildings, and students need to wear a mask when they are on buses.
Franceschina said his school and all others across the school system will work with the county’s health department to identify and respond to any potential COVID-19 cases.
Students will need to isolate if they test positive for the virus or come into contact with someone with a confirmed infection.
“I think everyone is a little bit nervous, but it’s a positive energy,” said Ali Lazorchak, a special-education teacher at Frederick High. “Most of us really thrive on the energy from our kids, so being without them in the same room last year was much harder for us.”