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Our View: Thumbs down to public school students’ situation; thumbs up for Carroll County turkey farmers | COMMENTARY

THUMBS DOWN: The Carroll County Board of Education, on Wednesday, voted to suspend hybrid learning system-wide, with the exception of some small groups, and also to push back the winter high school sports season and end workouts for spring sports team effective next week. To be clear, we’re not giving a thumbs-down to these decisions, just a thumbs-down to the entire situation that is once again negatively affecting Carroll County Public Schools students. The decisions were made for the right reasons. The number of community cases of COVID-19 are spiking. Depending on the day, Carroll is seeming three or four times more positive tests than just a month ago, when hybrid learning went into effect, allowing students to return to school facilities in person twice per week. Board members clearly made these decisions with great regret, noting that they have been contacted by many, many parents who want in-person learning to continue. While transmission hasn’t been rampant in schools, there were 40 confirmed cases among students or staff members and given that Carroll is in the midst of three consecutive weeks of setting new highs for community cases of COVID-19, which, combined with spiking positivity rates put Carroll into the “limited or none” category for in-person learning based on Maryland State Department of Education guidelines, this was really the only move the board could make, regardless of how disappointing it must have been to students and parents alike. Superintendent Steve Lockard made the recommendation to suspend hybrid learning with approximately 750 students still attending in small groups for various special programs requiring hands-on learning, and to have the board reconvene Dec. 2 to reevaluate. If numbers improve, students could return Dec. 7. Also on Dec. 2, the board is expected to discuss high school sports and whether to go forward with the winter season, now set to begin with practice on Dec. 14. We’re hopeful the community COVID-19 numbers will become more manageable in time for that meeting, so students who want to do so can return to classes and extracurricular activities such as high school sports can resume, too.

THUMBS UP: We’re glad some of Carroll’s turkey farmers are doing their best to adjust amid the pandemic while still serving their customers in time for Thanksgiving. Fewer people are expected at the dinner table this year for health and safety reasons, meaning the big bird in the middle of it all is likely to be smaller, too. As many Carroll County farmers rethink production strategy amid the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, farms such as Whispering Breeze Farm in Taneytown have found new ways to serve customers this upcoming holiday season. “We’ve been selling a lot of turkey breasts and legs because people still want the tradition, but they don’t want to have this huge bird they feel like they can’t eat,” Katie Brower of Whispering Breeze told us. This year, the farm expects to sell more than 200 turkeys between 16 to 18 pounds; in recent years, the birds would be grown to about 20 to 24 pounds to customers from Carroll, Baltimore and Frederick counties. Whispering Breeze is a part of Chesapeake Farm to Table, a food hub located in Baltimore County that serves as an intermediary to help customers get their local produce delivered to their door.

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THUMBS DOWN: We’re not happy to see many of Carroll’s dining establishments bracing for the effects winter is sure to bring. We’re talking about restaurants and bars no longer being able to provide or dedicate much space to outdoor dining, something that bolstered many an eatery over the last several months. With Gov. Larry Hogan’s latest restrictions putting restaurants at 50% capacity in terms of indoor patrons, it’s likely to be tough. Many of those restaurants have taken measures to keep people comfortable should they choose to dine outdoors, but with temperatures dipping and winter weather coming soon, several owners have said it’s a daunting challenge. “It’s going to be a tough period,” Maggie’s Restaurant owner Jim Breuer told us. “We’ll get through November. I’m not quite sure what December is going to bring.”

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