County students will stay out of classrooms at least until mid-January

by Kate Shunney

Washington County public school officials announced last week that students in the county’s schools will not return to classrooms at all for the rest of 2020.

Previously, school officials had said students might go back to class in mid-December if COVID cases remained under a certain level.

County COVID cases have risen sharply in the last two week.

“Due to the current metrics, WCPS is extending the date when in-person classes may resume from December to January,” school officials said in their announcement. “In-person classes may resume no sooner than Monday, January 11, 2021, depending on community health metrics.”

School officials said they would continue to follow Gov. Larry Hogan’s guidance on when it may be safe for students and teachers to return to in-person classes.

“During this pause in the WCPS Return to Learn Plan, WCPS continues to enhance distance learning while planning for the return of students. WCPS will provide additional information regarding in-person learning in an announcement to our community on January 4, 2021,” county school officials said.

Community-wide transmission, not school outbreaks, are the reason for the return to remote learning, school officials noted.

“It is the goal of WCPS to return students to in-person instruction when there are improved COVID-19 metrics in Washington County. During the eight weeks students were back in schools, WCPS saw very low transmission of the virus in our buildings, which may be attributed to the health and safety protocols implemented among students and staff.”

The open-ended return to distance learning has put an end to a patchy fall sports season for county athletes, many of whom trained and practiced but got very little or no playing time.

“WCPS congratulates our cheerleading, cross country, football, golf, soccer, and volleyball teams for the efforts of all student athletes and coaches during this exceptional season,” the county said. Still, plans are in place to get athletes active again.

Virtual conditioning for winter sports can start next Monday, December 7 under the county’s plan. Virtual practices may begin as early as December 14, they said.

“An announcement will be made regarding in-person practices as WCPS continues to monitor the community health metrics for COVID-19,” school officials promised.