When Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson announced students can return to the classroom starting April 8, Janna Parker didn’t want her boyfriend’s two daughters to show up at school.
After family discussions, the oldest child, 14, will remain home and continue virtual learning. The youngest, age 12, will go back. Both students attend Imagine Foundations at Morningside public charter school in the eighth and seventh grades, respectively.
“She didn’t like the support she got from distance learning. That is literally the only reason she is going back,” Parker said.
A parental survey highlights the majority of Prince George’s students will remain at home and continue virtual learning.
As of Thursday, Feb. 25, about 70 percent of the more than 120,000 responses from parents and guardians chose to keep their children at home. The remaining 30 percent of parents will allow their children back in the classrooms for two days a week for the remainder of the school year, scheduled to end June 15.
If students have trouble adjusting to the two-day hybrid schedule, the school system allows them to return home and continue with virtual learning at home.
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, parental flexibility also allows children in the same household to come back or stay home.
“The one thing I am grateful for is that parents have the opportunity to make choices,” Goldson said during a nearly 16-minute interview Thursday. “They really do have to spend time thinking through what their child can handle.”
In terms of employee COVID-19 vaccinations, about 7,200 employees received the first dose through Sunday, Feb. 28. The school system has about 122,000 employees.
Some parents, such as Shalia Ferguson, said vaccinations should be mandatory before schools reopen.
Goldson said that wasn’t required from the Maryland Department of Education. In addition, the federal government hasn’t mandated vaccines for the general population.
When school buildings reopen, she said children in elementary school will receive a socially-distanced recess. Games such as hopscotch “are the types of games students will be able to experience while their outside.”
If weather permits, teachers can provide instruction outside.
Back inside the buildings, a teacher sits at a desk providing instruction on a computer for students in class and at home. Students in class would either have an iPad provided by the school. High school students are expected to use their own laptop or other computer device.
The first group of students to return are all special education students and other students in prekindergarten through sixth grade and high school seniors.
Students in the seventh through 11th grades are to return April 15.
Students with last names that begin with the letters A through J will be in class Monday and Tuesday. Last names that begin with K through Z will see come to school Thursday and Friday.
All students will have virtual learning on Wednesdays.
However, teachers must conduct instruction in front of the classroom five days a week at their respective schools.
According to the reopening guide, students must wear face coverings “while inside PGCPS facilities and while being transported by PGCPS Department of Transportation.
“Face coverings are required by all adults and students, worn throughout the school day and as feasible for students with disabilities or a medical reason from their physician.”
The guide said the only exception is that students cannot wear face coverings when eating, drinking and “exercising outside.”
The face coverings rule does not include students with a health condition, or a disability that prevents them from wearing one.
“I think that is going to be a struggle for them,” Parker said. “I don’t know how [my 12-year-old] is going to respond with wearing masks. I still don’t want her to go, but she does have a choice to come back home.”