Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Parents Approach a New School Year with Caution

While walking after track practice with his mother to her vehicle, Obe Ijeomah turned and stared at Charles H. Flowers High School where he’ll return in less than two weeks.

The 16-year-old rising high school junior wasn’t sure he would return to the classroom this upcoming school year because his mother wants him and his siblings to continue virtual learning at home.

“I understand why she wanted to do that but I’m grateful she let me come back,” said Obe, whose grade point average hovers around 3.0 grade. “I’m going to keep my grades up, so she won’t need to worry about the decision she made.”

His mother, Dorothy Ijeomah, hopes she doesn’t regret her decision.

“My children did better staying at home because there were no distractions from other kids but they missed school and want to go back to their normal schedule,” Ijeomah said. “I just hope things will normalize and go back to how they used to be.”

At least 700 Prince George’s County Public Schools parents signed up to keep their children home and continue instruction online when the school begins Sept. 8. The school district anticipates an enrollment of more than 136,000 students which ranks second in the state of Maryland.

The coronavirus pandemic remains in effect as the highly contagious delta variant caused the positive rate in Maryland to slightly exceed five percent.

With confirmed cases reaching nearly 500,000 statewide, officials implemented mandates for unvaccinated workers in Maryland’s federal and state courthouses, nursing homes and hospitals to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by next month.

If not, employees face routine coronavirus testing.

Prince George’s implemented similar mandates with more than 12,000 of the 22,000 employees already vaccinated.

In addition, every student, teacher and other employees must wear masks or face coverings in buildings. In case a child forgets a mask, each school will have a supply of masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and other personal protective equipment.

When the county schools reopened for hybrid instruction in April, an estimated 32 percent of the county’s students came back to the classrooms for two days a week and wore masks and other face coverings.

The change in policy helped prepare school staff to conduct various safety measures for the 2021-22 school year, said public schools CEO Monica Goldson.

“While my kids aren’t in the school system any longer, I treat all of the kids I represent like they’re mine,” she said. “I would want my kids to be protected and one of the ways to do that is a mask. For those 12 and older, it’s a vaccination.”

Some parents, including Anchonia Williams of Bladensburg with children 10, 7, 6 and 3, remain concerned that their children cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine because it remains unavailable for youth younger than 12.

In the meantime, she picked up some backpacks and school supplies for hers and her sister’s children during a back-to-school event Saturday outside Charles Flowers High School.

Besides the success for all four of her children, Williams has a specific focus for two of her children: her three-year-old daughter in pre-school to practice writing letters and numbers “instead of just coloring, coloring, coloring” and to keep her seven-year-old son more focused on schoolwork because “he gets easily distracted.”

“With them being in school with a teacher and hearing another voice instead of mine, things should be better,” she said.

Temi Akinmabe of Riverdale also stayed at home with her three children last year.

Akinmabe said next month marks the first time her youngest child, who enters pre-kindergarten, will be in a classroom setting. Her other two children will be in the first and sixth grades, respectively.

“The virtual school was very difficult for me. The kids are tired of being at home,” said Akinmabe, who will return to work as a caregiver with The Arc Montgomery County. “I’m glad they will go to school. I want [school staff] to keep them safe by making them wear their masks, ensuring social distancing and educating them about the pandemic more. I am just hopeful for a good school year.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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