Wicomico Begins Welcoming Some Students Back To School This Week

SALISBURY – Small groups of Wicomico County students returned to school on Oct. 5 as part of the school system’s ongoing recovery efforts.

As Wicomico County Public Schools wrapped up its first month of virtual learning, Superintendent Donna Hanlin announced last week the school system’s plans for bringing back small groups of students beginning Oct. 5.

“As of Oct. 5 we will have students coming to schools in small numbers for Special Education, English Language Learners, Career & Technical Education, secondary math tutoring and some Advanced Placement science labs,” Hanlin said in a message to families. “After that, working by grade level, we will gradually bring back students who choose to return.”

Beginning Oct. 19, prekindergarten students will return to the classroom in small numbers with health and safety precautions, Hanlin said, followed by kindergarten students a week later. Other grades and programs will follow in the weeks ahead with communication forthcoming for families, and as health conditions in the community allow.

“Please note that before a student may return to a school or use school transportation, a COVID-19 Parent/Guardian Agreement must be signed online,” Hanlin said. “The link will be provided by the student’s school when the student is identified as part of a group or grade that will be returning.”

Hanlin also noted the school system’s decision not to resume athletics on Oct. 7.

“On Sept. 24, the State Superintendent of Schools and the governor announced that in addition to the MPSSAA plan to follow a three-season second semester athletics schedule starting Feb. 1, school systems could also choose the option to begin on Oct. 7,” she said. “After much deliberation and consideration of input from parents, administrators, and athletics staff about both options, Wicomico County Public Schools will not begin athletics on Oct. 7.”

She continued, “Our top priority must be instruction and returning our students to classrooms as soon and as safely as possible. However, we are exploring other alternatives for a consistent statewide schedule for beginning interscholastic athletics as soon as it is not only safe to do so, but logistically possible.”

In the meantime, Hanlin said the school system’s Return to Play Plan is being revised to allow for voluntary in-person conditioning during the first semester, following the same schedule previously outlined for virtual conditioning.

In July, the Wicomico County Board of Education voted to begin the academic year in a virtual format, with plans to reintroduce student to school buildings before the end of the first semester.

Since the first day of school on Sept. 8, students have participated in teacher-led and independent lessons using online platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom.

In her message last week, Hanlin also acknowledged several recent Zoom lesson breaches. She reminded parents and teachers not to share URL links and passwords with anyone.

“Wicomico Schools is investigating several recent incidents in which there was an unauthorized breach into Zoom classrooms,” she said. “In each case teachers immediately shut down the Zoom class, and the school sent a message to the parents of students in that class to inform them of what occurred. The school system is instituting increased security measures by the end of this week to prevent this from happening again.”

Hanlin said the school system’s recovery plan, posted on www.wcboe.org, has been updated, and families are encouraged to review it.

“You’ll find expanded information in some areas of the plan, such as on small groups and health metrics guiding reopening,” she said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.