Parents, their children, teachers and other school staff smiled with excitement as the first day of school began in Maryland’s 13 school system Monday.
In Prince George County, the enthusiasm grew even more as hundreds of students and parents enrolled at Adelphi’s new Cherokee Lane Elementary School. But everyone’s smiles were covered by masks, so all I could see was the sparkle in their eyes.
Prince George, the state’s second-largest school system with approximately 131,000 students, is the only school among 16 systems that requires everyone to wear a mask on campus and on school buses. .
As of Thursday, Prince George County and 10 other Maryland counties were ranked as having “low” local transmission levels of COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About two weeks ago, the infection rate in Prince George County was HIGH. During periods of high infection rates, the CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in public places and on public transportation.
The more recent COVID-19 infection rate is now as low as 9 per 100,000 population, so public school CEO Monica Goldson may make masks ‘optional’ in school buildings on Monday. It said the mask update will be released this week.
“Two weeks ago, our numbers were very high,” she said. A great partner with the health sector, [it] We will deliver the latest information in the prefecture.yes [we] We hope to transition to optional masks,” she said.
Seven counties and the City of Baltimore are currently ranked “yellow” by the CDC. This means that COVID infection rates are having a moderate impact on communities and health systems.
On Monday, infection levels were “high” in five counties: Allegany, Garrett, Kent, Somerset and Wicomico.
“Schools and child care programs should encourage people at all COVID-19 community levels to wear masks based on personal preferences or an informed level of risk to themselves, their families, or social contacts. We need to recognize that we have a choice,” July 22 Guidance Letter from State Department of Health. “Schools and parenting programs should support voluntary masking for any reason and have policies in place to deter bullying.”
Back in Adelphi, four of Norma Davis’ grandchildren made history as the first four students to enter Cherokee Lane Elementary on the first day of class.
More importantly for Davis, everyone was wearing masks. One of her grandchildren had to move home last year because of her COVID outbreak at school.
“With COVID going around, I’m in favor of mask mandates,” she said. i don’t want [my grandchildren] sent home. they need to be in school. ”
shortage of teachers
Meanwhile, statewide school systems are struggling with teacher shortages, a pre-COVID-19 pandemic problem.
There were about 2,000 teacher vacancies in September 2021, according to a July 26 report from the State Department of Education.
A month later, the state said the primary reason for the vacancy was voluntary resignation.
Prince George’s has the highest number of vacancies for the 2021-22 school year, rising from 422 at the beginning of the year to 712 at the end of June.
In a letter to the school community last week, Goldson wrote that the school system currently has up to 900 vacancies, the highest number in the state.
About half of these positions are occupied by 150 headquarters staff, retired educators and long-term substitute teachers, she said on Monday.
“Are we 100%? No, that’s what I would ideally like, but even this past week, I’m very grateful that we’ve filled 92% of the positions,” she said. I was. “We are slowly declining. We will continue to recruit for all grades. increase [to] Please bring them too.
According to state data, most educator vacancies are in special education, elementary schools, school counselors, and middle and high school math and English teachers.
Additional funding is expected to flow into schools this year from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a multi-billion dollar comprehensive education reform plan that Congress approved last year.
Sherrill Bost, president of the Maryland Education Association, said the “underlying crises” of the teacher shortage include increased workloads, insufficient wages and lack of respect.
“We still have a lot more work to do,” she said. “We’re struggling to recruit educational professionals, but at the same time, we’re not doing a very good job of retaining educators across the state.”
School days have been shortened for some students in Baltimore.
With temperatures expected to hit 93 degrees on Monday and Tuesday, public schools in the city of Baltimore have announced they will drop students out of 20 schools early.
Eleven schools, which started between 7:30 a.m. and 7:45 a.m., left around 11:30 a.m., according to a news release.Another six schools that started school at least 30 minutes early dismissed at 12:30pm, while three other schools had start times between 9:00am and 9:15am and closed at 12:45pm. finish in minutes
The school system, which has some of the oldest school buildings in the state, has faced periodic closures for several years due to heating or cooling problems.
Since 2017, the school system has been working towards a plan to improve the heating and cooling of buildings without proper climate control. As of the beginning of the month, the number of schools without air conditioning stood at 14, down from 75 previously.
Baltimore City Public Schools has identified funding for the upgrade of the remaining 14 schools, with six projects scheduled to begin construction next summer.
Daniel E. Gaines contributed to this report.