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Carroll County’s public schools will return to in-person learning Monday; superintendent says schools ‘are safe places to be’

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Carroll County, students and staff will return in person Monday to the county’s public schools, Superintendent Steve Lockard said.

By and large, we believe that we can continue to operate schools in-person five days a week.


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“We’re going to follow our anticipated calendar, we have no plans to change having students back with us on Jan. 3 … our plan at this point is to continue to provide in-person, five-day-a-week instruction,” Lockard said on Thursday. “We want to be as safe as possible, but we also need to provide consistency for our students.”

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Carroll County Public School Superintendent Steven Lockard.
Carroll County Public School Superintendent Steven Lockard. (Ken Koons/Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

Prior to the holiday break, the school system reported nine consecutive weeks of increasing numbers in positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Lockard said the school system will continue to use strategies such as universal masking, hand washing, contact tracing and quarantining to reduce the spread of the virus, and said other methods will be enhanced.

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“Mitigation strategies that we have been utilizing have been successful … we have a pretty good backup system in place for substitutes and coverages and things like that and we’ve been utilizing our central office staff to support our schools when they needed it,” Lockard said. “All of our instruction spaces where we have typical classrooms have air purification systems and we have been systematically going back to add more to smaller spaces,” Lockard said.

A safe return to in-person instruction and continuity of services is “very” important for students, Lockard said .

“I know our Maryland Department of Education is really encouraging and supporting systems to continue with in-person instruction … I know the governor has echoed those sentiments and certainly our board of education believes that to be very important, as do I,” Lockard said.

Tara Battaglia, a Carroll County school board member, previously made similar statements.

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“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,” Battaglia said on Wednesday. “Virtual learning is more harmful to our children in their education and their mental health. I feel going back to virtual would be a huge disadvantage for our students and families.”

Lockard said the school system will continue to work with the county’s health department and follow protocols with respect to COVID-19 levels.

“There have been times where there was a need to pause a particular program, or a particular classroom earlier in the fall,” Lockard said. “We will certainly consider that in collaboration with our health department but, by and large, we believe that we can continue to operate schools in-person five days a week.”

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.

Despite the increase in positive cases, Lockard is confident that the school system will be successful in its return to in-person instruction on Monday.

“We feel like our schools are safe places to be,” Lockard said.

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