After announcing Wednesday that all sports and in-person extracurricular activities through January would be canceled amid rising COVID-19 spread, Howard County schools reversed course Friday afternoon.
In a statement posted on its website, county school leaders said outside athletic practices and games, theater and music rehearsals, tutoring sessions and field trips will all immediately resume with masking required. On Jan. 3, schools can resume indoor athletics practices, dance and music performances, and travel for extracurricular activities.
Activities will remain suspended at several schools where there are high rates of spread of the virus. Those are Oakland Mills, Hammond and Mt. Hebron high schools and Laurel Woods Elementary School.
The changes came after the school board met on Thursday evening and overruled Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. The board voted to restore the activities under a plan Martirano was instructed to create that will include mandatory testing for students participating in athletics and theater. “This plan will be developed over the course of the next week and communicated as soon as it is completed. Athletics competitions and theater performances will be permitted to resume once that plan is in place” after Jan. 3, the statement said.
Martirano had said Wednesday he was suspending the activities because he hoped to make sure the spread didn’t prevent him from keeping schools open. “This decision has been made with that singular priority in mind,” he said.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 3,700 students in the 57,000-student system were in quarantine, alongside 146 staff members, according to the system’s dashboard. Some 300 new COVID-19 cases were reported this week. That’s compared to the week before the Thanksgiving break, when 75 new cases were reported.