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January 8, 2022 Community Update: Important Update on BCPS’ COVID-19 Response

Dear Team BCPS,

We are sending this joint letter to provide important updates about Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) COVID-19 response and efforts to ensure student and staff safety. We also want to share information about the distribution of COVID-19 rapid test kits and KN95 masks for all students and staff. The health and safety of staff and students remains our top priority and BCPS is using all strategies and resources available to ensure that schools can stay open safely and we minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our school communities.

Here are some important next steps for our school system:

  • School buildings will be closed on Monday, January 10 and Tuesday, January 11, to provide staff with the time needed to prepare instructional lessons in the event of a temporary transition to virtual learning for their specific school. Staff from the BCPS Division of Curriculum and Instruction have prepared independent learning activities for all students to engage in on Jan. 10 and 11. These activities cover multiple content areas, including science, social studies, math and language arts, and will be posted in Schoology. We are providing this planning time to all teachers now to minimize disruption should an individual school have to temporarily shift to virtual instruction. Currently, schools that are temporarily switching to virtual instruction are starting off with two days of asynchronous (independent) learning before live instruction begins on day three. We want to eliminate that asynchronous period and make certain that students are receiving live instruction on the first day of the temporary virtual period. Meals will be available for students while buildings are closed on Monday and Tuesday through curbside service. No sign-up or registration is required. For a schedule of curbside meal pickup locations, please visit: Food and Nutrition Services - Division of Business Services (bcps.org). Schools (except for those temporarily providing virtual instruction) will reopen on Wednesday, January 12 for in-person instruction.

  • Additional COVID-19 testing opportunities for staff will take place Monday, January 10 at all BCPS middle schools from 9 a.m.1 p.m. All BCPS staff are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this testing provided by CIAN diagnostics.

  • Distribution of COVID-19 rapid home test kits will take place on Tuesday, January 11 at each school.BCPS will distribute 126,000 test kits to BCPS staff and students.The district has ordered additional testing kits, and anticipates they will arrive by Friday, January 14, 2022. Principals will contact their school communities to provide details on the distribution of testing kits.

  • Distribution of KN95 masks as an additional option for students and staff began Wednesday, January 5, 2022. To date, 74,000 adult-sized masks have been delivered to schools for staff and secondary students and we have ordered 54,000 child-size masks. Additional orders for KN95 masks have been placed to build our current PPE supply.

BCPS continues to utilize the following safety measures and strategies to keep students and staff safe:

  1. Diagnostic testing:  Testing of students or staff who develop symptoms during the school day ensures quick identification and quarantine of cases. School nurses and our external testing partner will continue to provide onsite PCR testing for schools experiencing persistent or school-wide COVID-19 outbreak.

  2. Screening testing: Routine testing of unvaccinated adults reduces risk of infection from the group most likely to transmit COVID at school. All staff members, regardless of vaccination status, will continue to have access to CIAN Diagnostics weekly testing.

  3. Required masking in all schools and facilities: Masking significantly reduces the risk of COVID transmission from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people by reducing the number of viral particles released into the air by contagious people.

  4. Temporarily pausing all extracurricular and athletic activities: This will help limit any potential transmission among students engaged in sports or other activities outside of school hours.

We understand this is a tremendously uncertain and difficult time for members of Team BCPS. We want to assure you that we are all in agreement that closing school buildings is the absolute last resort. Decisions to move an individual school or groups of schools to virtual learning are made after careful consideration and close collaboration with the BCPS Office of Health Services.  A decision to pause in-person learning and activate remote learning is made only after a group of school and central-office leaders meet to discuss critical factors including—

  • The number of staff and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in a 14-day period
  • The number of staff and students currently in quarantine
  • The number of staffing vacancies at the school
  • Special program considerations and overall impact on a school’s ability to maintain its normal, daily operations
  • The availability of substitute teachers
  • Whether the school can provide in-person instruction in a safe and supportive environment

This work of maintaining in-person teaching and learning is a system and community effort. This week, more than 100 central office staff members—from across the organization—were deployed to assist in covering schools this week. Their efforts helped to preserve more than 2,100 hours of in-person instruction over a three-day period. 

BCPS continues to meet with health officials and experts from the Baltimore County Health Department, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland to review and, as needed, refine current practices. We rely on the advice and strategies from these experts who share our commitment to keeping school buildings open and protecting the health and safety of members of the BCPS community.

As our community, state and nation continues to persevere through these challenges, please know that BCPS, TABCO, ESPBC, CASE, OPE and AFSCME are committed to providing students with the high-quality education, support and access they need to thrive.

Thank you for your continued partnership and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Darryl L. Williams, Superintendent

Nicholas Argyros, president, OPE

William Burke, Executive Director, CASE

Bryan Epps, president, AFSCME

Cindy Sexton, president, TABCO

Jeannette Young, president, ESPBC