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Carroll school board member says going back to virtual learning would be ‘huge’ disadvantage to students

As the Carroll County Board of Commissioners plan to meet on Thursday and receive a briefing from both the health department and hospital officials on the current state of COVID-19 in the county, and McDaniel College plans to hold classes online only during January, a Carroll County school board member said Wednesday that reverting back to virtual learning would be a “huge” disadvantage for students and their families.

“The state superintendent made a statement that he does not feel closing schools is the best thing to do, and I completely agree with that,” said Tara Battaglia, a Carroll County school board member. “Virtual learning is more harmful to our children in their education and their mental health.”

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Prior to the holiday break, Carroll County Public Schools reported nine consecutive weeks of increasing numbers in positive COVID-19 cases in the school system.

The CCPS dashboard, which updates each Wednesday when schools are in session to track COVID-19 cases and people in quarantine, revealed 617 positive cases reported to schools during the week ending Dec. 22. During the week ending Dec. 15, the school system reported 423 positive cases.

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Community transmission of COVID-19 remains “high,” in Carroll County this week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On Tuesday, the positivity rate of 15.16% and testing in the county also increased by 7% as of Tuesday.

In November, Carroll County’s school board continued its push for making face masks optional in school buildings as they voted Nov. 11 to send a resolution to the state asking that the mandate be rescinded. Board members called on the state school board to allow districts to set their own mask requirements and advocated the importance of local control.

In early December Maryland’s State Board of Education directed state officials to draft a new emergency mandate for masking in public schools that will include “off ramps” for systems to lift such requirements in the future.

Board members voted 12-2 on Dec. 1 to call for a new masking plan for the state’s 24 public school systems after hearing from Maryland’s Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury. The superintendent asked board members not to lift the current emergency regulation requiring masking in schools through Feb. 15 — but to create ways for school systems to get to an optional mask policy in the future.

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Dr. Robert P. Wack, Carroll County deputy health officer, said the health department has tried to influence the school system to change its policies with respect to COVID-19.

“We have not been very successful,” Wack said.

Meanwhile the Carroll County commissioners meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Thursday, at the Carroll County Office Building. Commissioners will be briefed by representatives from Carroll Hospital and the Carroll County Health Department. Public comments may be made in person or online during the meeting.

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