Important Update on Jan. 3 Return for Staff and Students

Important Update on Jan. 3 Return for Staff and Students
Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff, and Students:
I hope you have had a safe and restful winter break. I am writing to provide an update on our plans for students and staff as winter break comes to an end. In my December 20 message, I shared information on the steps we are taking as a system to keep our students and staff safe while keeping our buildings open for teaching and learning. We continue to meet weekly with the Baltimore County Department of Health to evaluate COVID-19 metrics and review our health and safety strategies.
Preparing for a January 3 Return
With guidance from health experts and additional support from the county government, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) is moving forward with its plans to have students and staff return to schools and offices in-person on January 3, 2022. It is important to note that the Maryland State Department of Education also issued a statement clarifying that the expectation is that all school districts remain open for in-person learning and support for temporary transitions to virtual learning would be on a case-by-case basis.
We know that for most students, in-person learning is the best option to meet their academic and social-emotional needs. We also understand the pandemic is not over and we must remain vigilant in our efforts to keep our communities safe. In addition to the safety measures shared in the December 20, 2021, message, we are also taking the following steps effective January 3, 2022:
* Providing COVID-19 resources to students, staff, and families to ensure shared understanding and promote safe learning environments. (See When to Stay Home and Recommended Isolation Calendar)
* Postponing all athletic contests and extracurricular activities until January 10, 2022, to expand weekly screening testing access to all middle and high school unvaccinated students who participate in after school activities. The link to the consent form is here.
* Obtaining KN95 masks to provide as an additional option for students and staff.
* Providing onsite PCR testing for schools experiencing a persistent or schoolwide COVID-19 outbreak.
* Obtaining Rapid Home Testing kits for students and staff for distribution in schools with persistent or schoolwide outbreaks.
* Collaborating with the Baltimore County Department of Health to offer school-based COVID vaccine clinics.
School nurses will also continue to conduct testing for students and staff who develop symptoms at school. We have worked with Baltimore County Government to add to our current Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply and have obtained an additional 126,000 KN95 masks and 126,000 Rapid Home Testing kits for BCPS students and staff.
Other Important Things to Note
* BCPS may move individual schools or groups of schools to virtual learning after reviewing a number of factors (e.g., percent of positive student and staff cases, number of staff, and students in quarantine, and special program considerations) in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health, Maryland State Department of Education, and/or the Baltimore County Health Department. These closures will be tracked on the BCPS Web site.
* Maryland’s guidelines for quarantine and isolation have not changed. Students and staff who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for a minimum of ten days. Should Maryland adopt the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s shortened isolation and quarantine guidelines, BCPS will update its practices accordingly.
Here is What You Can Do to Help
* Please stay home if you are sick. This is critically important as many individuals with even the mildest of symptoms are testing positive for COVID-19.
* If your child tested positive for COVID-19 over the winter break and will be absent on January 3, 2022, please alert your child’s school homeroom teacher, nurse, or administrator as soon as possible.
* Get the COVID-19 vaccine. It is safe and available to everyone ages 5 and older.
* Get the booster shot. This additional shot provides an added level of protection and is available for everyone 16 and above.
* Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth whenever you are in a BCPS building or in public buildings in Baltimore County.
The BCPS community is stronger when we work together. Your continued partnership and cooperation are critically important to keep our school communities healthy, safe, and open for in-person learning. I want to wish all of Team BCPS a very happy and healthy new year in advance.
Darryl L. Williams, Ed.D.
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