36% Of Worcester County Students Back In School, More Pupils Expected In School Next Week

36% Of Worcester County Students Back In School, More Pupils Expected In School Next Week
Berlin Intermediate School art teacher Sarah Perdue is pictured leading a lesson with in-person students Ryleigh Aydelotte and Payton Oates as well as online students. Submitted Photo

NEWARK – Worcester County’s public schools continue to gradually return students to classrooms.

Worcester County Public Schools remains in Stage Two of its Responsible Return model as COVID-19 continues to be a concern. A third of the county’s public school students are back in their schools for in-person learning and more will return on Monday.

“We’ve welcomed back 36% of the population,” Superintendent Lou Taylor said at Tuesday’s school board meeting. “We’re very pleased with the progress we’re making.”

Though schools opened virtually Sept. 8, a first wave of students was brought back Sept. 28. Two weeks later, the school system brought back more students. Taylor thanked community members for adhering to the precautions and safety measures associated with stopping the spread of COVID-19 and said that continuing to do so would be critical as more kids returned to school buildings.

“The protocols are why Worcester has been so successful in implementing Stage Two,” he said. “It truly takes all of us working together to ensure our schools don’t experience a backslide.”

According to Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs, as schools bring back more students they will reach out individually to families.

“Late last week, the school system authorized schools to invite the third wave of students back into our schools beginning on Monday, Oct. 26,” she said. “Those schools have been contacting families individually to invite their child back to school. As outlined in our model, we continue to respect families’ wishes if they choose to keep their child(ren) engaged in distance learning.”

The county remains in Stage 2 of its Responsible Return model, meaning that health and safety conditions are evaluated on a biweekly basis. Sterrs stressed that parents with questions should contact their child’s school directly.

“We want to make sure we can address any questions or concerns right at the source, so any inaccurate information or speculation isn’t circulated and causing confusion,” she said.

As Worcester continues to move forward with in-person learning, another school system on the shore has reversed course. After seeing an increase in its positivity rate, Dorchester County has closed its school buildings and returned to virtual learning. In a statement, Superintendent Dave Bromwell said the county’s positivity rate had increased exponentially in recent days, prompting the decision.

“Today alone our case rate was 30.9 giving Dorchester County a positivity rate of 6.1%,” he said. “This is up from 2.5% on October 10, 2020. These both meet the health and safety metrics that require a reassessment. Through the continued collaboration of the Dorchester County Health Department and DCPS, we both have agreed that in the interest of health and safety and out of an abundance of caution, to close our school buildings.”

Earlier this month, Wicomico County Public Schools Superintendent of Schools Donna Hanlin outlined return plans for the more than 15,000 students in the 25-school jurisdiction as well as the 1,100-plus educators.

As of Oct. 9, 600 students – including English language learners and those in special education, career and technology education, secondary math tutoring and some Advanced Placement science labs – were back in school. This week pre-kindergarten students returned four days a week. Kindergarten students will get back in the classroom in a hybrid model next week with either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday in-person instruction and virtual instruction on Wednesdays. On Nov. 9, first and second grades will return in the same hybrid approach, following by third through fifth grades Nov. 30.

After the winter break, the week of Jan. 4, middle school students in sixth through eighth grades will begin their hybrid schedule followed by high schoolers on Feb. 1.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.