- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Officials in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties still have not presented schedules for reopening schools two weeks after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan authorized them to do so, as other districts in the D.C. area prepare to offer some in-person instruction.

“As noted in our reopening plans, [Prince George’s County Public Schools] will remain in distance learning until the end of January 2021. At which time, we will analyze the current COVID-19 numbers before announcing our decision to reopen in a hybrid model or remain in distance learning,” said schools spokeswoman Gabrielle Brown.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said Tuesday that the district has not set a date to reopen classrooms for in-person learning, but he did identify steps the school system could take, Bethesda Magazine reported.

For example, MCPS will provide face coverings and hand sanitizer to all staff members and protective equipment such as face shields and gowns to staffers who work with students in special education who are unable to wear masks.

Meanwhile, Fairfax County Public Schools allowed some students back in school buildings this week as part of a phased opening plan.

On Monday, the school system began allowing students for specialized high school career preparatory programs to return to classrooms. Officials have tentative plans to expand reopening to students for preschool autism classrooms and early childhood classes on Oct. 19.

On Oct. 26, FCPS will tentatively allow students who use elementary comprehensive services sites, those enrolled at the Key Center and Kilmer Center, students with limited or interrupted formal education, recently arrived English learners in grades 3-12 and Burke School elementary program kids to return to school.

The school system will bring back about 3.5% of its teachers and students, which means 6,707 students and 653 teachers.

But the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers expressed opposition to the reopening plans this week, saying it is setting up school-based staff for failure.

“In addition to lack of details in the county’s reopening plan, our members are concerned with the lack of transparency from FCPS about COVID-19 cases that have already occurred in our school buildings,” the labor union said Tuesday in a statement.

FCPS said it gave staff an opportunity to share their ideas for reopening schools but their responses “are not binding.” The school system has said it is trying to accommodate teachers who want to keep instructing virtually.

In the District, school officials announced Monday that thousands elementary students will gradually return for in-person instruction next month.

An estimated 21,000 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students could return for in-person learning and activities with a phased reopening starting Nov. 9, schools Chancellor Lewis D. Ferebee said.

Two in-person options will be available: regular classroom instruction and Canvas Academics and Real Engagement (CARE), in which students participate in small cohorts assigned to a staffer who is not their teacher and who will help them with online learning. Families can opt to continue with fully remote online learning.

About 7,000 students could return for in-person classes, and about 14,000 could participate in CARE classrooms.

The Washington Teachers’ Union has shared its concerns about plans to reopen.

“While our teachers want to return to our classrooms and resume in-person learning, we can only do so when it is safe and when the Mayor and Chancellor have come to the table to work with us and other Union leaders to ensure the safety of our students, schoolbased staff, and communities,” WTU President Elizabeth Davis said. “In a survey of teachers the WTU conducted last week, less than 3% believed our schools will be safe to reopen for in-person learning on or before November 9. Fewer said that DCPS has shared detailed information on proposed schedules and staffing plans.”

This month, DCPS began allowing some students back into buildings to use services offered at student support centers and to participate in career and technical education programs through October.

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