(BALTIMORE, Md.) — Nine of Maryland’s 24 school districts are set to reopen classrooms this month after nearly a year of remote learning.
The transition to in-person teaching began March 1 with elementary and special-education students heading back in counties like Baltimore and Anne Arundel. During the semester, students will continue with online classes through a hybrid-learning model, following guidance from the Maryland Department of Health and the State Department of Education.
Middle and high school students are expected to phase into in-person teaching mid-March.
The new reopening plan comes after Maryland’s governor pressured school districts to get students back in class as quickly as possible.
“Our children simply cannot afford any more endless roadblocks, or any more moving of the goalposts,” Governor Larry Hogan said during a January 21 press conference. “The time has come to get all of our kids back in the classroom, and to open the schools.”
The number of days spent in the classroom each week will vary depending on the district. In Harford County, students from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade are attending in-person classes two days a week. That number will double to four days on March 29 and will last for the remainder of the school year. Middle and high school students are set to return to school for just one day a week starting March 15. For them, four days of in-person instruction will begin on April 7.
With hybrid learning underway in Harford County, safety continues to be a concern as schools are still managing best practices. DeAnn Webb, principal of Aberdeen Middle School in Harford, anticipates challenges in trying to get students to comply with COVID-19 protocols.
“I don’t know if you remember being in middle school, but kids like to talk to each other,” Webb told The Click. “And so we’re trying to limit that contact when they go in the classroom.”
The county is requiring schools to follow basic mask-wearing and sanitization protocols, but leaves social distancing guidelines up to individual schools. At Aberdeen Middle, plexiglass shields will be available for students to place on top of desks, and lockers will be physically separated.
Webb said her school will go from 170 students a day starting March 15 to almost the total enrollment of 1,250 students in four weeks. She says that a fully packed school in a pandemic will be difficult to control.
“They’re gonna want to go outside and do other things that they haven’t been able to do this past year,” said Webb, “and then you’re going to have teachers who are going to get sick.”
During Harford County’s second week back to classes, four staff members tested positive for COVID-19, while 41 are in isolation, according to the Harford County Public Schools website. The state is reporting an upward trend in cases since March 10.