Howard County School System Announces In-Person Reopening Plan Updates As New School Year Begins
September 3 – Howard Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano at an Education Council meeting on Thursday highlighted updates to the plan to reopen the school system to continue to address the challenges faced during the first school week.
Here are some updates to the plan to help maintain a healthy learning environment amid the coronavirus pandemic and in-person learning:
Staff vaccines, tests
On Thursday, 7,233 of 8,490, or 85%, full-time and part-time employees of the Howard County public school system submitted proof of COVID-19 vaccination, while 105 staff chose to undergo weekly tests and 1,152 staff members did not respond. Martirano said the school system plans to work with supervisors to ensure that employees who have not responded are contacted.
This number does not include substitutes or temporary workers. The School System Administration Division will work with other school offices to reach these employees.
As of Thursday, a total of 57,619 students were enrolled in the county’s public school system, including 25,457 elementary, 13,429 middle schools, 18,406 high schools and 327 students who participate in community bonds, infants and toddlers and children. other programs.
Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year was 57,293 as of September 30, 2020, according to the school system’s website.
Only students and unvaccinated adults identified as close contacts should be quarantined. Students and vaccinated staff are not required to self-quarantine unless they test positive or show symptoms; however, they will need to watch their symptoms closely for 14 days.
Each school has a designated isolation room, where students who become symptomatic at school are immediately placed until they can be picked up by a parent or other authorized person.
Students who are to be quarantined will receive learning support while they are out of the school building, Martirano said.
While COVID-related absences are considered excused absences, children who need to be quarantined have several opportunities to participate in learning and receive support.
All elementary students receive a packet of school-level teaching materials intended for use only in the event that a student needs to be quarantined. These tasks are designed to reinforce learning during quarantine and will not be used as an assessment or counted towards student grades.
Additionally, quarantined students at all grade levels will be able to participate in two weekly virtual recordings with their teacher to ask questions or receive help with homework.
As of Thursday, the school system had 96 bus driver positions.
The shortage of drivers, increased traffic associated with more motorists and the usual challenges of a new school year have resulted in delays in student transportation, especially during the afternoon. Martirano also said the school system uses doubled routes on 95 routes to maximize the use of its current drivers.
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Windows and hatches on all buses should be opened, weather permitting, to increase air circulation. An exception is made where necessary for special education buses.
Breakfast and lunch are provided free of charge to all students, regardless of eligibility status, until the end of the 2021-2022 school year, with funding provided by waivers from the U.S. Department of ‘Agriculture to support the successful reopening of schools.
Martirano said, because meals are provided free, more students choose to eat school meals than in years past. This created an increased volume of students in the cafeteria queues and delays in receiving meals by the students. Martirano said central office staff are supporting cafeteria staff as the school system seeks to hire more staff.
Students do not need to wear masks when eating or drinking or when they are outdoors. Staff regularly remind students that masks are mandatory in the cafeteria when they are not eating and at all other times indoors.
The school system is also installing Plexiglas dividers for tables in cafeterias in primary and secondary schools, Martirano said, and eating out is encouraged where possible.
Martirano said the school system has also ordered the installation of tents in elementary schools to provide additional outdoor seating. He said some of the tents have arrived this week and he expects the rest to arrive this month.