Students in Prince George's County are set to head back to school on Tuesday after weeks of virtual learning — and the county is preparing by ramping up COVID testing in the community and in schools.
The entire school system went virtual on Dec. 20 after numerous teachers called out sick or had to quarantine due to the recent surge in COVID cases.
"He contacted me saying, 'Dad, can you come get me? The entire 8th grade is in the gymnasium," parent Darnell Hawkins told News4.
"What we saw clearly were pockets of spread within the schools giving that omicron was becoming a dominant strain," Prince George's County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Askew said.
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School officials are hoping to avoid another setback once in-person learning begins again Tuesday.
The county is distributing at-home rapid tests at county libraries and recreation centers. Kits are limited to one per present family member.
In an effort to increase the number of students and staff tested for the virus and stop the spread, Prince George's County Public Schools CEO Dr. Monica Goldson gave the following updates Wednesday for the school system:
- When students and staff return, they'll all get at-home test kits and KN95 face masks.
- Families were asked to test students weekly and upload the results Sunday night before coming to school the next morning.
- Parents were encouraged to sign their kids up for random PCR testing during the week.
A temporary K-6 distance learning program is expected to end Jan. 28. Additionally, there will be no spectators at sports games until Feb. 1, after which point venues will only be allowed to fill to 25% capacity.
"Although I do not anticipate another system-wide closure, we do expected COVID to continue to impact individual classrooms, grades or even schools," Goldson said.
"I can't even quantify the level of anxiety I feel," said Donna Christy, the president of the Prince George's County teacher's union.
Christy said her members support mandatory testing and they don't want a repeat of what happened before winter break.
"They feel like, for them, no one is giving credit that they are going into a dangerous situation every single day for work," Christy said.
For what to do if you or your student tests positive for COVID-19, see isolation guidelines here.