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Harford County schools’ latest plan for in-person hybrid learning outlines safety protocols, guidelines for sports

Harford County Public Schools released the latest iteration of its Continuity of Learning plan for a return of students on its website Monday afternoon, a few hours before a Board of Education meeting where those plans will be discussed.

While the document is light on scheduling specifics, it does include new safety protocols for students attending in person and outlines how the spring sports season will work.

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The school system announced last week it will offer a twice-a-week hybrid learning plan for elementary school students beginning March 1, with hopes of returning those students for four days of in-person learning by April. Middle and high school students are still only scheduled to return in person once a week starting March 15.

Special education providers will work with families before March to determine the number of days per week students will return to hybrid learning.

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Parents have the option sending their children back under the hybrid plans, with some students attending in person while others join the class virtually, or continuing with fully virtual learning. Families of students with an Individualized Education Program will be contacted to discuss the needs of individual students, the plan states.

The school system’s safety protocols outlined in the 42-page document include a list of “must do” and “whenever and wherever possible” guidelines. “Must dos” including wearing masks, staying home when sick, frequent hand washing and quarantining when exposed to COVID-19, among others.

The “when possible” list includes 6-foot physical distancing, physical barriers such Plexiglas and face shields, and limiting cohort mixing. Cohort mixing will be fully enforced for elementary schools and special needs programs.

All student participating in any in-person activities must be free of COVID-19 symptoms, according to the document.

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The latest guidance from the state puts a greater emphasis on making school-by-school decisions, rather than districtwide conditions, the plan states. As such, a COVID-19 decision team will also monitor activity at each school and take action depending on the severity of that experience.

The team will work closely with the county health department to determine steps needed to protect the community when a school outbreak is experienced, according to the document. That could include the closure of a part or a whole building, or a return to virtual learning for a period of time.

A plan for student athletics is also included. Out-of-season conditioning will begin March 1 with practices for the spring season to start March 15.

Student-athletes will have to go home before practices or competitions, according to the plan. Personal transportation will be required for practices; buses will be provided for away games.

Practices will be no longer than 90 minutes and indoor facilities will not be available; players must come dressed for practice and games. Practices and games will start after 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and after 3 p.m. Friday.

Having a physical presence in a hybrid schedule is not required for student-athletes to participate in spring sports.

Only families of players will be permitted to spectate games while following face mask and social distancing requirements.

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