Anne Arundel school board wants in-person instruction to begin by March

Anne Arundel County has made a commitment to vaccinate public school teachers by the end of February, and Thursday night the Board of Education voted to begin reopening schools no later than March 1.

The board approved a motion made by member Robert Silkworth saying that Anne Arundel County Public Schools will open for “in-person instruction for as many students as possible at all grade levels by no later than March 1, 2021.”


Superintendent George Arlotto will need to deliver a plan and timeline to the board for reopening by that date.

The board also approved a motion prioritizing the return of students who are learning English, who have special needs or who are struggling in the online environment, as soon as possible, made by member Michelle Corkadel. Arlotto told the board the school system is not able to bring small groups of students back into the building until the county department of health has given them approval.


The health department recommended closing schools to all students if the case rate is above 15 per 100,000 people. On Thursday the rate was 64.9.

Health Officer Nilesh Kaylanaraman said his department is revising the metrics for reopening pubic schools, considering the possible effect of vaccinations.

The vaccine will be available to teachers as a part of phase 1B. Today, Kalyanaraman will announce the county plan to start vaccinating people in 1B, an effort that could begin as soon as Monday.

Taking the vaccine isn’t a requirement for employment, Arlotto said, so teachers don’t have to get the inoculation.

The board also approved a motion by member Joanna Bache Tobin calling for the superintendent to identify students who are not successful in the virtual environment, and to provide additional support.

During public comment, Meade High School teacher Jarrod Combs said he would like to see schools open and stay open, rather than risk a premature opening that leads to schools closing again.

“I’m unsure we have taken the necessary steps to provide a safe return,” he said.

Charis Cephas, a teacher at Annapolis High School, also urged the board to heed the metrics and delay the reopening.


“I don’t think it’s worth chaos when we can be consistent and bring the kids that need it most, first,” Cephas.

Others urged the board to reopen with a hybrid option as soon as possible for those who want it.

“Many private and public schools are using the same plan. They can tweak it, you can make it better, but it’s a start and an opportunity for many children who need it,” Lori Smith said during public comment.

Kerry Strom, who described herself as a mother of four young children, urged officials to reopen schools, as other states have. She said education is being compromised.

“We need to stop thinking of all the road-blocks. It is possible for students and staff to be in school safely, and that’s where our focus needs to be,” she said.

Before the meeting began Crofton parent Kristen Caminiti sent a letter co-signed by 1,320 people asking the board to heed the recommendation of the county health officer and keep schools closed to students until March.


It also asks the district to still give families the option to learn virtually, even as staff and teachers are vaccinated in schools. Some caregivers vulnerable to COVID-19 may not feel safe until their children are vaccinated.

“Families are overwhelmed by the constant debate about whether to reopen schools. It is exhausting and a waste of emotional resources that would be better used supporting their children during this challenging time.”