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Return To School Buildings Coming In Baltimore County

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John Lee
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Some Baltimore County Public School students will return to school buildings March 1, nearly one year after they were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

School Superintendent Darryl Williams told the school board Tuesday night the students’ return will be phased in.

“By March 1, we will not have 111,000 students back in buildings,” Williams said.

Under the school system’s reentry plan, the county’s four schools for disabled students are slated to reopen first. Children in preschool through second grade are expected to be among the first wave as well. School officials say they are the students most in need of in-person instruction.

Virtual learning will continue for those students who return because they will be moving into a hybrid model of instruction. They will receive a mix of in-person and online classes.

Parents will have the option to keep their children home and learning virtually.

Williams said State School Superintendent Karen Salmon ordered local school systems last week to return some students to school buildings by March 1.

“It is my understanding that Dr. Salmon made it clear that the local school systems must comply with her directive,” Williams said.

Williams said he soon will present a timeline of how long he expects it to take to get all 111,000 students back in classrooms for the start of hybrid learning.

Board member Russ Kuehn pressed Williams on that.

“I want everyone to hear you say how long it’s going to take to start this and then get everybody in school,” Kuehn told Williams.

Williams said he doesn’t know when that will be.

“We will continue to add students,” Williams said.

The superintendent several times brought up the importance of getting as many teachers vaccinated as they can.

“We’re looking at two things: working with our staff to help them understand about the vaccine and working with our staff to start bringing back students,” Williams said.

The first group of school staff was vaccinated last Friday. School system spokesman Charles Herndon said 609 of them got the first dose of the vaccine. Additional BCPS employees are expected to be vaccinated later this week. Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch wants the school system to eventually take over vaccinating its 18,000 employees.

Williams said a survey of staff found that about 80% of those who responded said they would get the vaccine if offered.

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