Covid Back to School

Martin Zamudio speaks to a student during class at North Baltimore High School Thursday morning.

NORTH BALTIMORE – The school district will continue to use a hybrid model of education until further notice.

A date will be set at Tuesday’s board meeting.

The school board held a special meeting Monday to decide on whether to return to four or five days per week starting Oct. 19, the beginning of the second nine weeks.

The motion to return five days failed for lack of a second.

The motion to return four days, with Wednesday being a cleaning day, failed by a vote of 3-2.

Those in favor of staying hybrid included Marcy Byrd, Jaimye Bushey and Jeremy Sharninghouse.

Those who wanted to return four days a week were Tami Thomas and Tim Archer.

“COVID is not going to go away,” Archer said. “It is going to be here for quite a while. I can get it going to the grocery store, going to the gas station. … If our numbers were skewed, I would be a little more concerned. But it seems our numbers are staying where they’re at now.”

“Things have been going well and the board has opted to stay,” Superintendent Ryan Delaney said.

“We’ve been practicing for a month, to make sure we have all the answers as best as we can,” Delaney said about potentially returning everyone to the classroom on the same days.

The district has had only one confirmed positive coronavirus test – a student on the first day of class. A staff member was out Monday after a positive test then a negative test. They were told by the health department a third test would be the deciding factor. If the test comes back negative, the quarantine is lifted.

That one employee was in second grade and eight students in her class were sent home and taught remotely.

“There’s a good chance it will be lifted (Tuesday),” Delaney said about the quarantine.

No other positives have been recorded.

“Someone’s going to get it eventually,” Thomas said. “That’s why we have the distancing and wearing masks.”

“I just think for now it would be so easy to wipe out a whole class,” Bushey said.

She has talked to teachers who have said they are not having students fall behind.

“It’s a very hard decision to make, because you want the kids in school, and they need it socially and they need it academically. But then again, we don’t want to get into a situation where we lose them all for two weeks,” Byrd said.

She said she has talked to parents, community members and students and none have been adamant about returning to school every day.

Byrd said she was nervous making a decision without knowing the details on how social distancing would be maintained.

“I need some assurance about how we’re going to keep everybody safe, not just the kids,” she said.

Bushey said her understanding was if students returned five days, they would have to eat lunches in their classroom.

That is false, Delaney said. They would eat in the cafeteria, but the 6-foot social distancing would not take place.

He said students also could spread out into the gymnasium bleachers.

Bushey also asked about maintaining social distancing on the buses and in the hallways.

Fifty percent of parents are dropping of their kids, Delaney said, meaning 25-30 have been riding buses that seat upwards to 64.

There would be more kids in the hallway but keeping 6 feet apart at the elementary isn’t difficult and teachers make sure students stay on one side while traveling.

Bushey said that’s why the current hybrid system has worked so well – it has kept the kids safe.

She suggested doing it until the end of the semester, at which point Thomas pointed out at that time they will likely say again it is working so well, let’s keep doing it.

Sharninghouse’s biggest concern was if they stay hybrid, what will be done at the end of the semester.

“It’s going to be the same question we have then,” he said.

Thomas said a lot of pressure is being put on the students at home with older siblings watching the younger ones.

There was lengthy discussion over whether the teacher sent home would have to use sick leave, why she is still teaching and why a substitute wasn’t brought in to teach the children in the classroom.

A substitute wasn’t needed as the teacher could still teach from home, it was explained. If they were sick, a sub would be brought in.

“We’re staying as is,” Delaney said after the meeting. “Until a date is given.”

Classes started Aug. 20 with one group on that Thursday and the second group on Aug. 21. The full hybrid model started Aug. 24.

Group North is attending school on Monday and Tuesday each week, while Group Baltimore is attending Thursday and Friday each week.

Wednesdays is spent deep cleaning.

Delaney said around 50 of the district’s 700 students have chosen to take classes online until the end of the semester. At which time they can decided to return to the classroom. Students can enter the online option whenever they want.