PGCPS students still won’t be in classrooms before February

The earliest students in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools will be back in the classroom will be February, Schools CEO Monica Goldson reiterated in a brief conference call Wednesday night.

“We have no plans to reopen before February,” Goldson said of Maryland’s second-largest school district.

She said coronavirus infection rates and rising case numbers have accelerated at levels even higher than she had been expecting when she said there would be no return before the second semester.

“We’re just not in a place where we can at this time,” Goldson said about reopening.

She said Feb. 1 remains the target date, which is in line with what she said in July.

“We still have to monitor numbers. I can’t say that that’s a firm, set date, but that is our plan right now,” said Goldson, who expressed hope that cases of COVID-19 will start to decline after the holidays to the point that February is attainable.

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Ahead of Wednesday’s conference call, PGCPS released the results of a survey of students and parents that assesses how virtual learning through almost the first two months of the year.

According to the county, nearly 70% of parents said they believed the distance learning experience rates at least as “good” so far. More than 25% of them called it “excellent.”

But that’s not to say there aren’t hiccups and difficulties for the school system that has more than 132,000 students.

Parents told the county that keeping students engaged and balancing their own work hasn’t been easy.

Students said they miss the social interaction, and can have trouble staying focused.

But the survey found parents and students both appreciated the ability to avoid bringing home the virus from school.

More than two-thirds (68%) of parents said they aren’t comfortable sending their kids back to the classroom right now. Keeping a medically vulnerable student or family member safe ranked among the top concerns parents had.

Other concerns included cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, poor air ventilation, and the ability of students to adhere to mask-wearing and other safety protocols.

The county said “many” parents want to retain the distance learning option even when kids go back, though it’s not clear how many “many” is.

The school system surveyed a total of 100,483 students (grades 3-12) and 89,043 parents from Oct. 5 through Oct. 16. The number of respondents included 10,972 parents (12%) and 4,672 students (6%).

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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