The following statement was issued by HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano on April 27, 2021, regarding planning for the 2021-2022 school year:
Today, the Maryland State Board of Education passed a resolution stating that schools should be open for the required 180 days of in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year. The resolution, supported by the State Superintendent, does allow us to seek approval for a virtual alternative option for families who may choose to remain virtual, but it makes clear that in-person instruction for five days a week is the expectation for all districts in the state. I assure you that no state resolution was required to persuade our intent. I have been very clear in multiple public comments and communications that HCPSS intends to provide fully in-person instruction five days a week for all students for the entire 2021-2022 school year.
At the Board of Education meeting on March 25, 2021, Howard County Board of Education members stated their overwhelming support for the return of all students who wish to return to in-person instruction five days per week for the 2021-2022 fall semester. I have stated publicly and want to reiterate again that I fully support this priority and we are focusing our planning efforts on this goal.
During this pandemic year, we have been able to implement each phase of our transition to hybrid instruction without having to scale back or modify our plan at any point. The protocols and PPE that are in place have proven effective and our schools are proving to be safe environments for students and staff. The virus isn’t being spread within school buildings; rather, positive cases of COVID-19 are being transmitted primarily at outside gatherings and brought into our schools. Despite fluctuations in community case rates, transmission in schools has remained constantly low. I am encouraged that we have experienced over a week of declining case rates, but that does not mean that students, staff and families can let down their guard or cease adhering to all social distancing and mask guidelines.
Also supporting a healthy school environment is the vaccination of HCPSS staff. Over 99% of staff who wish to receive the vaccine have done so. The remaining few staff will receive their dose as soon as they are medically able to. Protecting our staff has been a priority even before the vaccine was available and we appreciate the collaboration with the Howard County Health Department and County Health Officer, Dr. Maura Rossman, to prioritize doses for educators and help us quickly get to this point. We have now turned our attention to assisting students who are eligible, and I am excited about a clinic that will be held tomorrow to provide vaccinations for many of our students who are 18 years or older.
During this past year, the school system was able to acquire sufficient technology to achieve a 1:1 student-device ratio. This capability is allowing us to reimagine many aspects of instructional delivery, including the opportunity for a virtual option for students. This option could have significant benefits for students who are unable to be in classrooms due to medical reasons and others who are better served in a virtual environment. As we implement fully in-person instruction to all students next school year, we are also working to serve students with a Digital Education Center in a fully virtual setting that we hope the State Board will support and approve.
In the coming months, school system staff will finalize a detailed fall instructional plan and present it to the Board of Education and HCPSS community. This plan will prioritize the return of all students alongside newly available virtual options for those students who may be better served by that instructional delivery model.
I appreciate the continued partnership with our students, staff, families, community, and Board members to keep our schools healthy and safe and able to fully reopen this fall.