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Anne Arundel County health department approves 13 private schools to hold in-person classes this fall

Anne Arundel County’s health department approved 13 safety plans from private schools and is reviewing 12 more after Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman ordered the schools to lay out how they plan to keep students safe from coronavirus and minimize the risk of transmission during in-person instruction this fall.

Safety plans are meant to help schools and the health department quickly respond if a coronavirus case emerges. Out of the 25 plans submitted since Wednesday, most were “solid plans that addressed safety for students and staff with a few requiring minor revisions,” the health department wrote on Facebook. Health department workers and school officials are working together to revise plans for schools that need additional tweaks to their protocols.

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“It’s been a really collaborative and really positive experience,” said Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman, who asked private schools not to open in-person this fall. If schools choose to open they must submit a safety plan.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools have decided to start the fall semester online. County school officials say want to expand school access as coronavirus risks allow.

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The safety plans act as a written procedure to follow if a staff or student tests positive for COVID-19. The guidelines ensure schools quickly notify the health department and the school community. Other measures include implementing U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines like face coverings, screening for symptoms upon arrival at school, social distancing in classrooms and hallways and managing respiratory droplets in the air.

“We’ve seen it when there’s a COVID case it creates a lot of confusion and concern and anxiety,” Kalyanaraman said. “So, having a plan in place helps you manage that much better.”

Schools that are already opened are required to send a reopening plan within three days of receiving the letter.

Gov. Larry Hogan blocked jurisdictions from broadly prohibiting private schools from reopening in early August. His order was issued after he disagreed with a Montgomery County decision to shutter private and public schools.

He revised an emergency order that had granted the jurisdictions such power but didn’t alter their ability to make such decisions for businesses and other types of organizations.

Capital reporter Naomi Harris contributed to this report.

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