The Charles County Board of Education voted Tuesday the school year will start Aug. 31 with all virtual learning. The decision was made with the understanding that special student populations would be able to attend in-person classes as quickly as possible.
The board voted down a similar plan that would have given special education students, English language learners and other student populations the choice to return to campuses on Aug. 31.
The board said it needs more information and wants to hear from students, staff and parents.
“I still have a lot of questions,” parent Sherian Boyd-Patterson said. “This is so unprecedented that we really don’t know what’s best, and everybody’s got their own situation, and nothing’s going to be cookie cutter.”
“We live our lives in balance; we don’t live it in extremes,” said student board member Ian Herd. “And health, educational, social and developmental needs are all at stake here. I don’t know anyone who pivots their life on one need 100%.”
“I’d hate for it to be, Well, my kid is going to feel sad because they don’t get to socialize with their friends,” parent Jason Thompson said. “I think this is more important than that consideration.”
When students do return to schools, safety measures will be in place, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray in every classroom; gowns, masks, gloves and face shields available to teachers and staff; a mandatory mask requirement for visitors; and robust contact tracing within the buildings.
Parents are encouraged to take their children to school, but on buses there will be one student per seat.
The board could return in a month to vote to speed up reopening of schools.