TOWSON, MD—Baltimore County Public Schools officials on Monday posted an updated to parents, guardians, staff, and students regarding the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the state.
The update reads as follows:
Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff and Students:
The sharp increase in positive cases and rapid spread of COVID-19 across the county, state, and country is deeply concerning, and I know many of you are worried about what it means for our school system and our efforts to keep our school buildings open and provide in-person learning for our students five days a week. I want to be clear—the health and safety of the Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) community remains our top priority. The decisions we make as a school system, while navigating the complexities of this ongoing pandemic, are guided by our commitment to ensure the health and wellness of our students and staff. We also know that for most of our students, their academic and social-emotional needs are best met when they are in person.
As a result of our comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety practices, we can and will maintain in-person learning five days a week for all students. Our school buildings will remain open at this time. However, we cannot ignore the rising number of positive COVID-19 cases in Baltimore County, which have led to an increased number of cases in our schools in recent weeks. We will implement the following measures immediately to ensure we can continue to keep our school buildings open for teaching and learning:
- All in-person, before and after school non-athletic extracurricular activities are suspended from Wednesday, December 22, 2021, through Friday, January 7, 2022. This includes clubs, programs, and in-person tutoring. Schools are encouraged to transition to virtual meetings if possible. Community use of school buildings, including daycare programs, can continue as scheduled.
- Athletic practices and games may continue as scheduled given that student athletes are required to provide proof of vaccination or participate in weekly testing as a condition for participation. All games during the Winter Break (December 23, 2021 – January 2, 2022) are cancelled; optional masked practices are allowed. Beginning Monday, December 20, 2021, if a team has three or more active positive COVID-19 cases, team activities will be paused for 14 days. We want to remind all members of the community attending our games that masks are always required.
- In cases where the Baltimore County Department of Health identifies an outbreak and there is concern about increased spread of COVID-19 in a specific school, BCPS will work with health officials to determine next steps in accordance with the BCPS Response to Shifting Metrics.
- BCPS will only close all schools and move to district-wide virtual instruction if required to do so by local and/or state government officials. The district will continue to work closely with the Baltimore County Department of Health to monitor cases in our schools. We will provide an update on our efforts by Thursday, December 30, 2021.
Next Steps and How You Can Help
This is a rapidly changing situation and we need your continued support and partnership. In an effort to proactively prepare for any county and/or state ordered change to school operations, we ask that all students and staff bring their devices and chargers home for the winter break. We hold weekly meetings with health experts from the Baltimore County Department of Health, Johns Hopkins University, and University of Maryland to evaluate COVID-19 metrics and review our health and safety strategies as we respond to changing conditions. Here are some additional steps you can take to help us keep school buildings open for in-person instruction:
- Get vaccinated. If you were vaccinated before May 2021 or you have only received a single dose of the J & J vaccine prior to October 2021, please consider getting a booster dose.
- Stay home if you are sick and get tested if exposed to someone who has tested positive for the Coronavirus.
- Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth at all times whenever you are in a BCPS building or school facility.
- Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.
- If you are gathering or traveling for the holidays, please follow the safety recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- As we prepare to close for the winter break, we ask that all staff and students bring their devices and chargers home for the break.
Please take all efforts to stay safe and healthy over the winter break. If we continue to work together, I am confident that we can keep our school communities healthy and safe and get closer to more normal operations and activities.
Darryl L. Williams, Ed.D.