Michelle Daniels and her husband decided their son, Ted III, can return back to the classroom when Prince George’s County public schools reopen in April.
As a physician assistant, Daniels understands the science behind the coronavirus pandemic. Both have received COVID-19 vaccines.
She felt reassured her son can receive in-person instruction after Greenbelt Elementary School principal held two Zoom sessions with parents. In addition, her son’s first-grade teacher got administered a vaccine.
“It made us feel better that we can change our minds and we can pull him out,” Daniels said. “It’s just twice a week and it’s only 27 days [until the end of the school year]. If we are ever going to get back to the swing of things, we’re going to have to step out there.”
Daniels joins thousands of other Prince George’s parents making the choice on whether to send their children back to the classroom.
Prince George’s Schools CEO Monica Goldson announced last week a hybrid schedule will begin April 8 to return all special education students and other students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade and high school seniors.
Students in the seventh through 11th grades will come back April 15.
The school system will allow parents to decide on keeping their children at home to continue virtual learning for the rest of the school year scheduled to end June 15.
Parents such as Phyllis Wright plans to keep her children at home.
“I have two daughters. Both are honor roll students. They tell me, ‘Mommy, we are scarred to [go] to school and get sick,’” she said. “I don’t feel comfortable with sending my children to the schools.”
Parents are asked to complete a survey by Feb. 28 on whether to have their children return to the classrooms.
According to a <a href=”https://bit.ly/3kaeAnu” target=”blank”>reopening parental guide</a>, will utilize a hybrid schedule for classroom instruction for two days a week and virtual learning the remaining three days.
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.
Classroom occupancy for early childhood centers and pre-kindergarten tis limited to 10 students. Occupancy increases to 15 students for kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.
In each room, a teacher is to sit at a desk in front of the classroom providing instruction on a computer for students in class and at home. Each student is to use an iPad provided by the school or, for high school students, a laptop.
All students will have virtual learning on Wednesdays.
During a conference call Thursday, Feb. 18, Goldson summarized a medical advisory team comprised of county health officials and medical professionals helped to assess on students returning to school. For instance, they analyzed confirmed coronavirus daily cases began to decrease an average of 12 per day since Jan. 22.
However, the county continues to lead the state of Maryland with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. As of Saturday, Feb. 20, the county received the lowest percentage of first and second doses administered in the state at 6 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
The state’s first phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout includes teachers and other school staff.
So far, at least 1,500 received a vaccine and more are scheduled through Kaiser Permanente Lanham Rehabilitation Center. The school system has about 22,000 employees.
Each school will have plexiglass barriers installed along with air purifies, daily cleaning by custodial staff and other personal protective equipment.
Face masks for students and adults are required inside all buildings and school buses, which are slated to transport a maximum of 21 students and one per seat.
One item not noted in the reopening plan is mandatory vaccines for school employees.
Without required vaccinations for teachers, and Prince George’s continuing to record the highest number of confirmed cases, Gerrod Tyler isn’t sending his seventh-grade daughter back to school.
“I believe that a return to school with 2½ months left in the school system will do more to disrupt children’s learning than to help,” said Tyler, PTSA president of Maya Angelou French Immersion School in Temple Hills. “Our teachers are teaching in class and virtually at the same time. What happens when we have tech issues? What happens when the sound is not clear for those who are attending virtually? I just don’t think we’ve thought everything through.”
Taj Wilson of Temple Hills said he and his wife, a registered nurse, continue to discuss on whether to allow their three children to return to school.
His two daughters, one in high school and the other in elementary school, are thriving through virtual learning. It’s been slightly challenging for his son in middle school.
“I am looking at these private schools and other schools in the area that have gone back to school and the data that I have seen is there have been no outbreaks with teachers and students,” said Wilson, a police officer at Georgetown University in Northwest. “I get it, [Prince George’s] is a larger scale of students. Why couldn’t we do that with our school system with all the taxes that we’re paying?”
WI contributing writer Curtis Knowles contributed to this story.