The Prince George’s County Public Schools system plans to reopen for in-person hybrid learning starting in April, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson announced in a press release Wednesday.
Parents or guardians will be given the option to opt their students in to the hybrid learning option, through which students will learn both in-person and remotely, according to the release. In a survey set to be distributed Wednesday, parents will be able to choose whether their student will continue in a virtual learning environment or begin hybrid instruction two days a week.
“We know that nothing can truly replace the experience of interacting with their educators and classmates in a classroom,” Goldson said in the release. “At the same time, our highest priority from the very beginning of this pandemic and to this day continues to be the safety of our students and staff.”
The announcement comes as just over 49,000 people in the county — about 5 percent of the county’s population — have received the first dose of the vaccine. Prince George’s County is currently in Phase 1C of vaccination distribution, which includes teachers and support staff.
The Prince George’s County Educators Association has pushed back against Gov. Larry Hogan’s calls to reopen schools no later than March 1. The union, which represents more than 10,000 educators, issued a letter to Goldson last week stating that its members want to return, but only when it is safe to do so. In the letter, the union requested several safety measures, including hazard pay for in-person staff, coronavirus testing, contact tracing and vaccinations.
Schools will reopen in phases, according to the release. Phase 1 includes special education students in kindergarten through 12th grade, students in pre-k through 6th grade and high school seniors, who will be able to return starting April 8. Phase 2 includes the remaining students in 7th to 11th grade, who can return starting April 15.
Students who opt in to hybrid learning will be divided into two groups for in-person instruction on a staggered schedule. Social distancing guidelines will be in place in classrooms and school buildings, according to the release.
All educators will return to their classrooms next month ahead of their students, and central office staff will return as well at that time, according to the release. Student-athletes will be able to participate in after-school conditioning and outdoor workouts beginning March 10.
PGCPS will work with the Maryland COVID Testing Program to offer rapid and diagnostic testing for students and staff, according to the release. The school system will also begin contact tracing for students, and continue to do so for staff, the release read. Personal protective equipment will be made available to students and staff and air filters in school have been upgraded to meet CDC recommendations, according to the release.
The PGCPS Environmental Team will respond to known cases of COVID-19 within 24 hours by cleaning and disinfecting any facilities or areas, the release stated.
“As a school system, we have shown restraint in not rushing to reopen,” Goldson said in the release. “We will continue to adhere to metrics for safe school reopening based on COVID-19 indicators.”