School buildings will have a different look about them when they reopen in a few weeks, and Carroll County Public Schools officials say they’re working on showing them off to their respective communities.
The county is moving forward with its plan to have schools open Oct. 19 with a hybrid learning format in place that will have students and staff alternating between attending in-person two days and virtually two days, with one day reserved for sanitizing facilities and online learning only. That means the buildings won’t look or feel the same as they did back in March, when schools across the state closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Superintendent Steve Lockard recently said plans are in the works to display what has been going in within the buildings to get them ready for those who will be using them. Lockard, speaking toward the end of the Sept. 23 Board of Education meeting, said CCPS administrators will be creating a marketing push of sorts, complete with video, to get the message to the public.
“Somebody had said, ‘Oh I’d love to come in and see [the schools].’ ... ‘I wish we could actually bring you into the school, but we can’t,’ ” Lockard said. “And so the next best thing is to give you glimpses and show you and communicate with you ― here’s what you can expect for your child in terms of space and markings and hand-washing and hand-sanitizer stations and … the whole 9 yards.”
Cindy McCabe, chief of schools, said she has recently visited several schools and found the principals at each building eager to participate with the plan.
“They’re excited to be thinking about having their students back in the building,” she said during the meeting. “As I’ve been out in the buildings with them, it’s been great to see what they’ve set up and what they have ready for our students. They’re going to have a lot of fun getting out those messages to their communities.”
A 7-minute video produced by Piney Ridge Elementary School staff shows some of the changes in and around the building. Principal Patricia Reed leads a guided tour of the campus and talks about the details of the health and safety guideline signs out front. The video shows the main office, with acrylic glass placed above the desks, as well as some shots of a few classrooms. Media center rules are also discussed, and the video ends with a view of the student arrival and dismissal space outside the building.
Mount Airy Middle School put together an hour-long video with details about the hybrid learning model, led by Principal Sharon Lilly and Assistant Principal Chris Hynes in question-and-answer fashion. That video displayed new hallway paths and pointed out where hand sanitizer stations are located around the building.
Some schools have sent “Frequently Asked Questions” information to their parents, according to Carey Gaddis, a spokesperson for the school system. Others have put together virtual town meetings or coffee sessions, she said.
School board member Patricia Dorsey said she was invited to a recent “chat-and-chew” online session with the Northwest Middle School community that dealt with how the school was preparing for the hybrid learning plan. A similar online gathering also took place for the William Winchester Elementary community, and Dorsey said slides were available to show the parents.
McCabe said there were about 60 parents online for the William Winchester meeting.
“Just the excitement of looking forward to having the students return to the building was just very evident,” Dorsey said. “The message is getting out there, and hopefully as many parents as possible are taking advantage of those opportunities.”