‘That’s the underlying issue’: Many Montgomery Co. teachers wary of returning to schools until all are vaccinated

Empty school classroom(Getty Images/iStockphoto/smolaw11)

While public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland, prepare to reopen in phases starting March 1, teachers are getting briefings on what to expect.

But one county teacher said there’s one thing overshadowing all the plans.

“I think we shouldn’t go back first of all until everyone is vaccinated,” said Angela Wolf, a longtime middle school teacher.

“I think that’s the underlying issue” that’s giving many teachers pause, Wolf added.

The Montgomery County Board of Education sent a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday asking that more vaccines be given to Montgomery County in the weekly allotments from the state.

Friday, state health officials released the 4-week plan for allotments. Montgomery County’s health department will continue to receive 4,500 vaccines each week; a reduction of 1,000 vaccines from the previous week.

Wolf said back-to-school preparation for teachers includes watching a video explaining what kind of student behaviors they might see as the result of kids being away from in-person learning for a year.

Some of the information in the video struck Wolf as being contrary to advice on preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

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The plan from the county school system would have students eating lunch in their classrooms to prevent crowds of kids moving to a cafeteria for lunch and to avoid having large numbers of students congregate in any single area.

But Wolf said “in the video it said you shouldn’t eat in an enclosed environment, that conveys to me, don’t eat in the classroom.”

Wolf said her concerns are not a criticism of the administrators in her school.

Wolf and other teachers have told WTOP that principals and school administrators have worked hard to get schools ready and have teachers, parents and students feel comfortable with the plans given to them by the school system.

“I can’t imagine the stress that they’re under. Trying to be good administrators, right? And respond to teachers and respond to students and then develop a plan that’s going to work for the building,” said Wolf.

Instead of having teachers view videos about the return to school apart from students, Wolf said the school system should have teachers and students view them together as a class.

She said that could lead to discussions about what things might look like and what everyone should keep in mind to keep each other safe and settle into instruction after such a long absence from the classroom.

Hybrid learning plans at other suburban Maryland schools:

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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