Students back in classes in Prince George’s Co.

Students and families line up on the first day of school at Deerfield Run Elementary School in Laurel, Maryland. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)

Students went back to class in Prince George’s County Wednesday, marking the start of the new school year in Maryland’s second-largest public school system.

The majority of the system’s 132,000 students will be learning in-person five days a week.

“They’re excited to return to what we’re calling our new normal,” said Monica Goldson, the CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools.

There is a universal indoor mask mandate in all schools. Officers and employees are required to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or undergo testing on a weekly basis.

“We have 80% of our teachers vaccinated,” Goldson said.

Parents are encouraged to check their kids for symptoms every day.

“Don’t send your child to school sick,” continued Goldson.

According to the county’s school system, schools will provide written notification to staff or families in cases where there has been potential COVID exposure.

If there is a confirmed case in a school the infected person will have to quarantine for 10 days. They must be symptom-free before they are allowed to return to the classroom.

Those exposed to COVID will be told to 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.

Goldson started Wednesday in Laurel, greeting students at Deerfield Run Elementary School.

“For this population of students, we don’t have the vaccine available yet,” Goldson said, noting that the COVID vaccine is not being offered to children under 12-years-old.

“I don’t think we’re going to go the entire year without a COVID case,” Goldson said. “That would be unrealistic.”

In addition to in-person learning, the county has more than 12,000 kindergarten through sixth grade students enrolled in a temporary virtual program, although that program will be phased out once the COVID vaccine is made available to children under 12.

An “online campus” is launching this fall as a specialty program 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.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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