Baltimore County Public Schools officials are postponing a plan to send some students and staff back to four schools for children with disabilities, citing concerns with the region’s rates of COVID-19.
White Oak, Ridge Ruxton, Battle Monument and Maiden Choice schools were scheduled to open for students Nov. 16, with teachers expected to return Nov. 9. That plan is being delayed based on Baltimore County’s rates of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, said Superintendent Darryl L. Williams and Chief of School Climate and Safety Michael J. Zarchin in a Wednesday statement.
The school leaders said they will proceed with a safe reopening for students two weeks after the county positivity rate is 5% or lower and the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents is below 15.
“As of Nov. 3, the Baltimore County daily positivity rate is 4.6 percent and the number of cases per 100,000 residents is greater than 18,” the statement says. “These numbers have steadily increased in the last week. As of Nov. 3, our cumulative number of cases per 100,000 (14 days total) is greater than 200. Our percent change in new cases per 100,000 (previous 7 days) is more than 10 percent.”
The decision was made “in accordance” with guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Department of Health, according to the statement.
The four public day schools were prioritized for reopening because they serve children with disabilities, who have struggled to access specialized education services during the pandemic.
“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, we will monitor our metrics on a daily basis in coordination with the Baltimore County Department of Health and make adjustments as necessary, always keeping health and safety foremost in our minds," the statement says. "Updates on our metrics will be provided every Friday.”
Baltimore County school board members voted unanimously last week in favor of a measure requiring staff to publish a plan for returning students in kindergarten through second grade to school buildings by Nov. 30.
School board members clarified that the plan should be considered flexible and subject to change. School system staff must release the plan to the public and board members by Nov. 10.