The virtual learning option for Prince George’s County Public Schools students in kindergarten through sixth grade is coming to an end Friday, but many parents are not OK with the return to in-person learning and held a demonstration in protest.
About 12,000 K-6 students enrolled in the virtual education program at the beginning of the school year.
Concerned parents like Danielle Wood gathered at the Prince George’s County Board of Education Building in Upper Marlboro Wednesday.
Wood, the mother of a fifth grader in the program, says they hope the demonstration draws attention to their position and causes the administration to reconsider.
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“The purpose of the rally is to make our voices heard,” Wood said. “We don’t feel like the county or the state is listening to their stakeholders, you know, what our concerns are,” Wood said.
Despite the parents’ concerns, the system said the program will not be extended and school is scheduled to be open and in-person starting Monday.
“We understand our community’s concerns, however, PGCPS does not have authorization from MSDE (Maryland State Department of Education) to extend this program,” the school system said in a statement. “The K-6 virtual program was always intended to be a temporary option until a vaccination was available for younger children.”
The statement says there are enhanced safety measures in schools, including expanded random testing, weekly home testing and KN95 masks.
For Wood and other parents, these measures do little to ease their concerns as COVID-19 cases increased with the omicron variant.
Wood said her son hasn’t been in a classroom since March 2020 and isn’t comfortable going back now.
“It’s concerning and alarming to send my child to what feels like back into the lion’s den when they don’t have a handle on COVID inside of the schools due to staff shortages,” she said.
PGCPS says parents who are not ready to send their children to in-person school may consider homeschooling, which is regulated by the state.