Baltimore County public school officials are preparing to bring students back to school buildings for the first time in nearly a year, with employees expected to return to buildings by Feb. 16 followed by students on March 1.
Officials released the timeline Monday for rolling out a hybrid learning model of both in-person and online instruction for several categories of students. Children in preschool through second grade may return to schools on March 1, as well as students enrolled in special education programs at the system’s four separate day schools.
Students in career and technical education programs, and students who receive special education services in general education settings may return to school March 15, according to the plan.
Students in sixth through ninth grades may return March 22, followed by the remaining students on April 6.
“We have heard loud and clear that some families are ready for in-person learning,” said Superintendent Dr. Darryl L. Williams in a statement Monday. “While school operations will look different as we implement the CDC’s recommended practices for health and safety, I look forward to greeting students and staff as they return.”
The announcement comes after months of debate among school board members and planning by administrators.
Critics in the county have expressed frustration that the school system continued to hold classes online throughout the fall and winter, even as neighboring jurisdictions such as Baltimore City and Carroll County reopened to some children.
Administrators have pointed out that the school system is still recovering from a devastating ransomware attack just before Thanksgiving.
The Teachers Association of Baltimore County, the union representing thousands of certificated county schools employees, recently slammed an announcement from Gov. Larry Hogan calling for schools to bring students back for in-person instruction by March.
That could signal a possible showdown between the county’s educators and elected leaders.
“There are many concerned people,” TABCO president Cindy Sexton said Monday.
Sexton said a recent union survey found that 80% of respondents indicated they were “somewhat or very nervous” about returning to school buildings.
“We just want to be sure health and safety guidelines are followed,” Sexton said. “It’s still a dangerous situation with the pandemic.”
This article will be updated.