The CEO of Prince George’s County, Maryland, public schools said the system will be giving out test kits and KN95 masks as it returns from a distance-learning model on Jan. 18.
CEO Monica Goldson said in a letter to the community that the school system will aggressively test its student and staff population each week following the return to in-person learning.
Students and staff will receive free test kits and KN95 masks, and students are being asked to submit the results of their tests in order to return to classes each week. A link to upload results will be provided in the coming week, Goldson said.
The school system will also expand the number of students selected to participate in the random testing sample pool each week. Goldson said the school system has worked with vendors to double the number of students the program can test each week to 20% of the student population.
She asked families to sign the permission slip to allow their child to take part in the testing program.
“I understand that families may have concerns about returning due to the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Goldson said. “We will continue to collaborate with the local and state health departments to assess data and make the best decisions.”
The county’s K-6 Virtual Learning Program will conclude Jan. 28, as Goldson explained the program was always meant to be a temporary option while vaccines were unavailable to children ages 5-11.
No spectators will be allowed at Prince George’s County Public Schools sporting events in the month of January.
“My goal remains to keep our schools open safely and I believe that we can do so for the duration of the 2021-22 academic year by following the science and proven mitigation strategies: Wear a mask. Stay home if you are sick. Complete the permission slip for your child to be randomly selected for weekly testing. Get vaccinated,” Goldson said.
More than 20,000 people dialed into a telephone conference call Wednesday night, most of them parents, to hear Goldson outline a policy of regular testing and mask-wearing for students, teachers and staff.
“We will distribute home COVID testing kits, one per child, and KN95 masks to all staff and students. Students will be requested to test weekly in order to return to school the following week. Every Sunday tests should be taken and results uploaded from Jan. 23 through Feb. 27,” Goldson said.
Parents also heard from the county Health Officer Dr. Ernest Carter, who said that the rate of COVID-19 transmission in the county is “still extremely high” at 34%.
A snap survey of parents on the call revealed that 71% said that their eligible children had received COVID-19 vaccinations.
Goldson told parents she intends to keep schools open but expects COVID-19 will continue to disrupt classes.
“Although I do not anticipate another systemwide closure, we do expect COVID to continue to impact individual classrooms, grades or even schools,” Goldson said.
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