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Half of CCPS students have been learning in person since January

Half of the enrolled Carroll County Public School students have been attending in-person learning on average since January.

CCPS has started giving some students the opportunity to attend class at least four days a week and all students will have that opportunity by March 22. While waiting for parents to decide who will opt in for in-person learning four days a week, the system provided attendance numbers for the average number of hybrid students, the number of class sizes and the number of students on school buses.

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Cindy McCabe, chief of schools said 2,700 people on the high school level, 2,500 students on the middle school level and 6,700 students on the elementary level have been attending in-person classes two days a week since the board of education voted to allow hybrid learning the first week of January. She said 400 students were able to attend four days a week before the board expanded in-person learning. Of those 400 students, McCabe said “is a portion of the students in our special education program.” It also includes children of CCPS staff.

That adds up to about 51% of all students enrolled this school year.

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The board voted to allow students to learn in-person at least four days a week Feb. 10. When they met Feb. 24, a plan was developed to phased-in students starting with Gateway and Crossroads students to full time on March 1, elementary students to return four days a week on March 15 and all other schools, including the Career and Technology Center, to return March 22. Special education students have already started attending that week.

Some of the school community expressed concerns for social distancing, after the board said could not always be guaranteed in the new plan. They were waiting on state approval of the plan until they were told on Monday the state did not have to sign off on the new plan, allowing them to move forward with it.

A class size report on the system’s website, which only reported classrooms that have more than 15 students, showed most classrooms have 16 to 19 students and few have more than 25. The school site said it will be updated every week.

The school system also provided numbers for bus riders. The number of students who rode on “A” days were added to number of “B” day riders for the morning bus runs to determine “the total number of students to be expected on each bus.” The numbers are from the beginning of February and could be different from recent days.

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At the time, some buses had as few as one passenger between A days and B says while others had nearly 40. The number of Century High School passengers on its 20 buses, for example, didn’t pass 15. One of Cranberry Station Elementary School’s 10 buses held as many as 38 students between A days and B days, and as little as eight students.

The revised return plan states buses will only hold 21 people with one per seat and eight students for the special education buses.

A challenge the school system is facing amid students return is staffing.

Jon O’Neal, chief of operations, told the board Feb. 24 that 44 teachers had been hired since October, the month they started hybrid learning for the first time, and there are now 23 vacancies. The system hired 20 instructional assistants since October, and now have 62 vacancies. The last applicant pool contained five qualified candidates. There are 98 vacancies for student support assistants though 108 were hired since the fall. And 18 vacancies for facilities plant operation staff. Six of those positions were filled under a service contract.

CCPS has used volunteers and staff from central office to monitor classrooms due to lack of teachers and assistants.

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