Baltimore County Public Schools are preparing to open using a hybrid schedule, some groups returning as soon as March. Schools have been virtual for nearly a year, due to Covid-19 and while some families may argue the return to school is far overdue, other families are worried about the safety risks.
The BCPS hybrid schedule consists of three cohorts—groups of students with common school schedules— depending on whether families selected to go back to school or stay fully virtual. Students assigned to Cohort A will go back to school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while students in Cohort B will go to school in-person on Thursdays and Fridays. Students in Cohort C have chosen to stay virtual at this time. Wednesdays and weekends will be used to thoroughly clean the building from the previous group.
When safety precautions are in place, it is found that virus spread is minimal. With masks worn over the nose and mouth, the washing of hands, and use of hand sanitizer encouraged, distanced learning, and acceptable ventilation systems, the risks of spreading COVID-19 are low although not absent. BCPS is working to ensure the safety of students and staff by requiring these safety precautions be met. BCPS is requiring face masks to be worn at all times, alternating schedules for buses and classrooms, revised classroom arrangements to separate students by at least six feet, dismissal changes, frequent hand washing, elimination of field trips, and revised mealtime plans. Ventilation systems will provide the proper number of air exchanges per hour and protective equipment will be provided to school staff. Additionally, if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 they must quarantine for at least 10 days and their symptoms must resolve and the community will be notified. Anyone who has come in close contact with someone with COVID-19 must quarantine for 14 days. In our current situation, the return to school will be different, but with the support of the community, BCPS students and staff will work to enhance the learning experience students receive.
The return to in-person school may be tough, but it will provide many students with social experiences, a better environment for learning, more supplies to enhance learning, an easier way to ask for help, and much more. By wearing masks and taking necessary safety precautions, we will continue to work towards a return to normalcy.