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From Enforcing Masks To Offering Vaccines, BCPS Prepares For First Day Of School


Baltimore County school officials are finalizing plans to keep people safe when schools reopen as the delta variant drives up COVID transmission rates.

That includes what to do if a student violates the requirement that everyone must wear a mask.

If a student shows up without a mask, Debbie Somerville, the coordinator of the office of health services for the county schools, said a teacher will offer one, and if necessary, go over how to wear it and why it’s important.

“But if a student becomes defiant and refuses to comply with the face mask requirement, that will be addressed in a disciplinary way with the principal and their parents,” Somerville said.

The school system announced July 29 that it would require everyone to wear a mask regardless of vaccination status, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

A federal order requires masks on school buses.

Students who are masked and three or more feet apart from other students will not have to be quarantined if someone in the class develops COVID. Students who are not masked or not distancing will need to quarantine for 10 days after coming into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID.

Students with a disability that makes wearing a mask unsafe are exempt from the universal masking regulation.

“In those cases, we’ll just work with them as appropriate to develop that skill if they can,” Somerville said.

She said the keys to keeping school buildings safe are masking, distancing, and getting vaccinated.

Somerville believes students will be able to keep a safe distance from each other in classrooms. She is concerned about cafeterias. So, schools are looking at adding lunch shifts, and having some students eat in classrooms and in outside courtyards. They also will track where students are sitting for lunch.

As for vaccinations, they are being offered at various schools. On Thursday, a COVID vaccine clinic will be held at Randallstown High School from 4 pm -7 pm. No appointment is needed.

Somerville said anyone can get the vaccine at the school-based clinics.

“The more everybody in our community gets vaccinated against COVID, the safer children will be.”

The vaccination clinic schedule is available online. The school system’s reopening plan is online as well.

“I want our parents to know that we can keep their students safe, and we are taking the steps we need to take to do that,” Somerville said. “I want optimism.”

Teachers report to their classrooms next week. The first day of school is August 30.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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