Photo from a Facebook post from Vicky Cutroneo, Howard County Board of Education Member

Superintendent Presents 2020-2021 Third-Quarter Timeline for In-Person Small Groups

Superintendent Michael J. Martirano presented a timeline for the return and expansion of in-person small groups to the Board of Education during the Howard County Board of Education’s January 7, 2021, COVID-19 Update/2020-2021 School Year Status work session. The Board of Education also held a discussion regarding priorities for a fourth quarter instructional model.

The third quarter timeline presented by the Superintendent is dependent on the health environment allowing a return of students and staff based on the metrics approved by the Board:


  • During the week of January 4, HCPSS restarted in-person assessments and resumed in-home supports for some students who receive special education services.


  • On February 1, HCPSS will implement the expansion of small group programs and supports, for four or five days each week, to provide some level of in-person supports in place at every school.
  • On February 13, the fall athletics season is scheduled to begin with in-person practices.


  • HCPSS will continue small group offerings at every school and prepare for the possible implementation of a hybrid model for the fourth quarter, which begins on April 15.
  • The goal is to have 5 percent of students in buildings, and continue to increase the percentage to bridge to a fourth quarter model with expanded in-person instruction.

The Superintendent also renewed his intention for many traditional senior activities such as prom, senior awards and graduation to take place in person, if it is safe to do so. Central office staff, high school administrators and senior class representatives and advisors are working in preparation of that goal.

Additionally, the Superintendent reiterated that any decision to initiate in-person small groups will be driven by data, including the health metrics that were determined by the Board.

  • According to the Board’s health metrics, the Howard County COVID-19 positivity rate must be at or below 5.13% and the case rate per 100,000 below 20 for two consecutive weeks to return to small group instruction.
  • For reference, the January 6 positivity rate was 7.6% and the case rate per 100,000 was 34.96, both significantly above the levels allowing small groups to resume.
  • Beyond health metrics, HCPSS considers attendance and engagement data, student grades, technology distribution data, and vaccine distribution data in order to make well-informed decisions.

To date, the Howard County Public School System has implemented strict protocols for notification of positive cases and potential exposure, and will continue to work with the Howard County Health Department and follow CDC guidelines. Students and staff in buildings must follow strict precautions including the use of appropriate face masks, social distancing, and regular hand washing and sanitizing. Hand sanitizing stations and plexiglass have been installed in all appropriate areas to support the safety of students and staff.

Following the Superintendent’s presentation of the timeline through March, the Board engaged in a continuing discussion of priorities for an instructional model to be implemented for the fourth quarter.

Resources from, and video of the January 7, 2021 Board of Education meeting may be viewed online. Video may take up to 24 hours before it is available to view online.


Scott E