Bromwell: Schools to begin reopening in October

DCPS screen shot/Dave Ryan
Superintendent Dave Bromwell announced on Friday plans for schools to begin in-person instruction in October.

CAMBRIDGE — Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools Dave Bromwell released a video statement on Friday afternoon, announcing that in-person instruction will begin during October.

“We are still in Phase 1.5,” Mr. Bromwell said, “with small groups returning to school over the next several weeks. But we will begin to move to Phase 2 of our Recovery Plan on Oct. 27.”
This will be a “true A Week and B Week,” he said, with students beginning to return in all grades. “Yes, I’m extremely excited about this announcement,” he added.
While still in Phase 1.5, small groups will return. On Oct. 13, A Week students in pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, grades 6 and 9 and students who still have connectivity issues will report to their home schools.
On Oct. 20, B Week students in the small grades or with connectivity issues will report to their home schools.

Then on Oct. 27, “Our true Phase 2 begins, as 50 percent of our grades report as our A Week students come to school.” On Nov. 3, Phase 2 continues as the 50 percent of students in B Week attend classes.
The A and B groups allow for smaller classes and social distancing, Mr. Bromwell said. Group C students remain virtual, at the parents’ request. Group D identifies those who will participate in both A and B Weeks.
“As you can imagine, Dorchester County Public School staff continue to work hard to prepare for students’ returning,” he said, adding that preparations are being made with the health and safety of all in mind.
Cooperation needed
Mr. Bromwell also asked for patience and cooperation from the public.
“Here’s my biggest plea to the parents: Dorchester County Public Schools are going to rely on you to check your child’s health daily before attending school,” he said. Parents will be provided with a checklist as an aid in determining a child’s health.

He thanked parents for their responses to a recent survey, and for their questions. He answered the top two, both of which involved safety.
“Students will wear masks while on Dorchester County Public School buses and while attending school,” he said. “Of course, there will be breaks throughout the day, during which your child can remove their mask for a short period of time. There will be no temperature checks of students as they enter school, as we will be relying on you, the parents, to confirm your child’s health for the day.”
Sports seasons
Thursday’s announcement by Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon that sports would be permitted, starting in October, created excitement, opposition and more than a few questions locally and around Maryland.
A press release from the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland, on behalf of all 24 of the state’s superintendents offered no more than lukewarm support for the move.

“As we return to classrooms, so too will we return to play, but the timing may not be perfectly aligned,” the statement said in part. “In fact, the timing and conditions of these activities were made clear in local reopening plans presented to the public in August. In conclusion, as adults, parents, educators, and superintendents, it is our obligation and privilege to protect the health and safety of Maryland’s schoolchildren, while providing the most effective educational environment in this global pandemic.”
“The Bayside Conference, at this point in time, will be continuing with our second-semester option,” Mr. Bromwell said. All three high school seasons will have abbreviated seasons in the second semester.

Changes since March
Schools first closed their classrooms in March, when the COVID-19 virus hit Maryland. Students received packets of work in the mail, as they completed the semester.
When the current, 2020-2021 school year started this fall, nearly all classes were conducted online, with only limited in-person instruction for technical studies and special education.
But while all students received tablets on which they could operate the Schoology program and its online instruction, many students in this rural and low-income area have experienced difficulties getting a signal to operate their digital devices.
Difficulties with online teaching and pressure from parents who have had trouble working while their children are at home have been joined by urgings from Annapolis to re-open the public schools.