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Baltimore County school board votes to expand in-person classes four days per week to all students

Baltimore County public schools will offer all students the option to attend classes in-person four days a week beginning Monday next week.

The county school board voted Tuesday to expand the in-person learning option to students in middle and high school grades. All students in elementary grades and at the four separate public day schools were given the same option starting May 10.

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The school system also announced several changes Monday related to COVID-19 mitigation practices in schools. And more than 8,000 students have signed up for extended learning opportunities this spring, administrators said, which includes after-school programs and a new Saturday school set up in response to the pandemic.

Here’s what you need to know:

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When will schools reopen four days per week?

Schools will open Monday for all students to take in-person classes four days a week. The school board’s decision this week mostly affects middle and high school students, some of whom have attended school in cohorts since the system started reopening buildings in March, taking in-person classes just two days a week.

Some parents have complained for weeks that not all students have been permitted to return to buildings four days a week. School leaders cited building capacity limitations created by the social distancing guidelines, as well as a gradual approach to bringing large numbers of students back into contact with one another, as reasons for the staggered reopening.

“The action the board took was a continuation of the direction we’ve been moving all along,” said Charles Herndon, a spokesman for the school system. “We’re prepared for this.”

Herndon pointed out that Friday is the last in-person day for seniors, which means high schools have more space for social distancing beginning next week.

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What are the new COVID-19 mitigation practices?

School officials updated the system’s COVID-19 mitigation plan Monday to say that students in classrooms should be distanced from other students by at least 3 feet. This gives schools the capacity to bring more students back to buildings, Herndon said

Adults are still expected to follow the 6-foot social distancing rule. That physical distance is recommended for students in the common area or during meals, music and physical education class.

Masks are also no longer required outdoors, with unmasked individuals asked to maintain 3 feet of social distance as much as possible. The school system continues to recommend masks for all people who have not been vaccinated.

How will online learning work this fall?

School system leaders say they are moving closer toward the goal of bringing all students back to school for five days per week. In the meantime, the system is offering an online learning option next year that will include a blend of live instruction and course work that students can complete independently, similar to what students experienced in fall of 2020.

Parents can register their child for online learning through May 28. Schools are asking for a one-year commitment from families who sign up for online learning next fall. Officials say a student’s needs and individual circumstances will be taken into account if he or she wishes to return to the school building before the end of the 2021-22 school year.

Online students would not be asked to learn alongside students attending classes in-person, such as with the hybrid learning model used during the spring semester. Educators would be assigned exclusively to either online or in-person classrooms.

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