New COVID-19 Protocols For 2022: Baltimore County Public Schools

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BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD — The superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools issued more information Thursday about what the return to classes will look like in 2022. Schools are slated to reopen Monday, Jan. 3, after winter break.

"With guidance from health experts and additional support from the county government, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is moving forward with its plans to have students and staff return to schools and offices in-person on January 3, 2022," Superintendent Darryl Williams said in a statement Thursday, Dec. 30.

In his last communication, on Dec. 20, he encouraged students to bring their devices home for the holidays, based on what he called a "rapidly changing situation" due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases countywide.

Williams noted that on Dec. 20, the Maryland State Department of Education issued a statement expressing commitment to providing tools to continue in-person learning.

When students return, BCPS will be expanding access to COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment, Williams said. BCPS obtained 126,000 KN95 masks and 126,000 rapid at-home COVID-19 testing kits for BCPS students and staff, he reported.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shortened its isolation and quarantine periods, Maryland has not, the BCPS superintendent noted.

"Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for a minimum of ten days," Williams said. "Should Maryland adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s shortened isolation and quarantine guidelines, BCPS will update its practices accordingly."

He shared a calendar with the recommended isolation periods based on the first day of symptoms or date of a positive COVID-19 test result.

These steps will take effect Monday, Jan. 3, when students are slated to return to school, he said:

  • BCPS will require proof of full COVID-19 vaccination for any student participating in BCPS after-school activities for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.

  • Athletic events and extracurricular activities will be postponed until Jan. 10, 2022, to expand weekly screening testing access to middle and high school unvaccinated students who choose to participate in after-school activities. Students who are unwilling to be vaccinated or present documentation verifying a medical or religious exemption will be part of mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing at their school, conducted during the school day or practice time. They will receive a PCR test involving a brief self-swab inside the tip of the nose. The student consent form is here. Testing comes at no cost to the student.

  • BCPS will provide PCR testing and at-home rapid tests for schools with COVID-19 outbreaks.

If any schools move to virtual learning, these will be listed on the BCPS website, Williams said.

"BCPS may move individual schools or groups of schools to virtual learning after reviewing a number of factors," Williams said, noting these:

  • Percent of positive student and staff cases

  • Number of staff, and students in quarantine

  • Special program considerations

Any decision about school closures would be made in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland State Department of Education, and/or the Baltimore County Health Department, Williams said.

Read the full text of the Dec. 30 letter on the return of students to school in 2022 below.

December 30, 2021

Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff, and Students:

I hope you have had a safe and restful winter break. I am writing to provide an update on our plans for students and staff as winter break comes to an end. In my December 20 message, I shared information on the steps we are taking as a system to keep our students and staff safe while keeping our buildings open for teaching and learning. We continue to meet weekly with the Baltimore County Department of Health to evaluate COVID-19 metrics and review our health and safety strategies.

Preparing for a January 3 Return

With guidance from health experts and additional support from the county government, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is moving forward with its plans to have students and staff return to schools and offices in-person on January 3, 2022. It is important to note that the Maryland State Department of Education also issued a statement clarifying that the expectation is that all school districts remain open for in-person learning and support for temporary transitions to virtual learning on a case-by-case basis.

We know that for most students, in-person learning is the best option to meet their academic and social-emotional needs. We also understand the pandemic is not over and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to keep our communities safe. In addition to the safety measures shared in the December 20, 2021, message, we are also taking the following steps effective January 3, 2022:

  • Providing COVID-19 resources to students, staff, and families to ensure shared understanding and promote safe learning environments. (See When to Stay Home and Recommended Isolation Calendar)

  • Postponing all athletic contests and extracurricular activities until January 10, 2022, to expand weekly screening testing access to all middle and high school unvaccinated students who choose to participate in after school activities. Please see the student consent form here.

  • Obtaining KN95 masks to provide as an additional option for students and staff.

  • Providing onsite PCR testing for schools experiencing a persistent or schoolwide COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Obtaining Rapid Home Testing kits for students and staff for distribution in schools with persistent or schoolwide outbreaks.

  • Collaborating with the Baltimore County Department of Health to offer school-based COVID vaccine clinics.

School nurses will also continue to conduct testing for students and staff who develop symptoms at school. We have worked with Baltimore County Government to add to our current Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply and have obtained an additional 126,000 KN95 masks and 126,000 Rapid Home Testing kits for BCPS students and staff.

Other Important Things to Note

  • BCPS may move individual schools or groups of schools to virtual learning after reviewing a number of factors (e.g., percent of positive student and staff cases, number of staff, and students in quarantine, and special program considerations) in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland State Department of Education, and/or the Baltimore County Health Department. These closures will be tracked on the BCPS Web site.

  • Maryland’s guidelines for quarantine and isolation have not changed. Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for a minimum of ten days. Should Maryland adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s shortened isolation and quarantine guidelines, BCPS will update its practices accordingly.

Here is What You Can Do to Help

  • Please stay home if you are sick. This is critically important as many individuals with even the mildest of symptoms are testing positive for COVID-19.

  • If your child tested positive for COVID-19 over the winter break and will be absent on January 3, 2022, please alert your child’s school homeroom teacher, nurse, or administrator as soon as possible.

  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe and available to everyone ages 5 and older.

  • Get the booster shot. This additional shot provides an added level of protection and is available for everyone 16 and above.

  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth whenever you are in a BCPS building or in public buildings in Baltimore County.

The BCPS community is stronger when we work together. Your continued partnership and cooperation are critically important to keep our school communities healthy, safe, and open for in-person learning. I want to wish all of Team BCPS a very happy and healthy new year in advance.

Sincerely,

Darryl L. Williams, Ed.D.
Superintendent

This article originally appeared on the Towson Patch

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