HCPSS Staff Begin Receiving COVID 19 Vaccines
HOWARD COUNTY, MD — An estimated 1,550 COVID 19 vaccines have been made available to Howard County educators. Howard Community College opened its gymnasium Thursday solely to administer vaccines to teachers. The Howard County Health Department had 1,000 doses to give to educators Thursday and Friday.
Howard County Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in an email to staff that the additional doses of the vaccine for teachers is a “glimmer of hope” and “wonderful news.” The vaccines from the health department are anticipated to cover all school system staff who fall in the first two tiers of the district’s four-tier system that abides by the county’s Phase 1B plan. The first two tiers include school nurses, health assistants, custodians, food and nutrition staff, and other staff currently working in person. The 500 doses were allocated to educators who fall in the district’s third tier.
Howard County Public School System spokesperson Brian Bassett told Patch that the county health department will continue to work with the district to provide first and second doses.
“Yesterday, the health department held a clinic that provided approximately 1,000 HCPSS staff with their first dose of the vaccine and they will continue to provide opportunities in the days and weeks ahead for our staff. Additionally, Johns Hopkins Medicine provided 550 appointments for HCPSS staff that will be scheduled over the coming days. We greatly appreciate this and hope that there will be additional opportunities through JHM for HCPSS staff moving forward,” Bassett said.
Some staff members have obtained the vaccine through other avenues.
School staff and educators have expressed concern about returning to the classroom for in-person learning starting March 1 without being vaccinated. Dr. Maura Rossman, Howard County Health Officer, previously told Martirano that the “pace of vaccinations should not impact decisions related to reopening.”
During a Jan. 28 news conference, Martirano said he wanted all of the district’s approximately 10,000 staff members to be vaccinated before returning.
“Nowhere in the state’s guidance document is there a requirement that health metrics be at a certain level prior to implementing a hybrid instructional model. In fact, the guidance document goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the spread in schools does not align to the spread and metrics of the general population,” Martirano stated during a January work session. “I want to make clear that students and staff who return to school buildings and/or ride school buses will wear protective face masks and adhere to social distancing and other guidelines to ensure we maintain a healthy school and work environment.”
Beginning in March, Howard County students will start returning to the classroom with a hybrid in-person A-group/B-group plan in which students are split up into two different groups. The Howard County school board approved a plan at its meeting Tuesday after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon stated recently that school districts would be mandated to open in a hybrid format by March 1. The school district’s approximately 56,000 students have been learning online since last April when the coronavirus pandemic prompted officials to shut its doors.
Howard County school board members approved in-person learning up to five days per week for students with disabilities, special learning needs, difficulty with virtual learning and English learners who have been identified by school officials. They have the option of returning to school the week of March 1.
Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade are slated to return to school via the hybrid model starting the week of March 15. Students in grades three, four, five, six, nine and 12th, along with career and technical education students, will fall under the hybrid model the week of March 29. Students in grades 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th will not return to the hybrid learning plan until the week of April 12.
Families are able to keep their students engaged in 100 percent online learning if they choose. If they wish to switch students to the hybrid plan, students will attend classes in person up to two days per week and engage in online learning the other days of the week.
According to the school district, one group of students will learn in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other group of students will attend school in person on Thursdays and Fridays. Educators will be tasked with teaching both in-person and virtual students simultaneously. Wednesdays will be available for virtual help and homework for all students, as well as planning and training for teachers.
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