Ken Baughman

Reopening Anne Arundel County Schools

As we near closer to the beginning of the school year, surrounding counties are announcing their reopening decisions. Anne Arundel County is still weighing their options and is expected to make a decision by late July.

Like many Americans, I'm itching to get back to my daily routine. I would love to see in-person learning in the fall: it's better for the social and emotional needs of students; it's better for most parents who are working full-time; and it's better for educators who can creatively interact and teach their curriculum. Most of us can agree that we miss our school communities.

While we're eager to get back into the classroom, there are many risks to weigh on how to open schools. To safely return to in-person school, students, teachers, and staff will need to abide by CDC guidelines including adequate social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing work spaces. In order to implement these guidelines, the school districts will need to greatly alter their environments during each part of a student's day -- from riding the bus to school until they return home.

Thankfully, and because we're working together to take proper precautions, Maryland has not encountered a spike in cases with the reopening of businesses. However, we do have oversized enclosed classes; inadequate time to clean and disinfect classrooms and common areas between students; and a single point of failure if our educators or staff become ill.

As a parent and an experienced teacher, I believe a combination of distance learning and in-person learning is the most viable option for our school systems this fall. The majority of our students should be on a distance learning track. Over the next six weeks, school districts should focus their resources on how to ensure students receive the same level of education as if they were in a classroom. It's also critical that they focus on overcoming technology barriers and providing access to technology to students who are in need.

For teachers who are comfortable with in-person teaching, there should be an option for in-person learning for students who need additional help or if distance learning causes unnecessary hardship on the family. This would allow for smaller class sizes and the ability to distance our students while providing a quality education.

Conversation surrounding reopening for the second semester needs to continue to happen. It's imperative that the Board of Education works towards an equitable solution to best serve students, educators, teachers, and staff.

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