Baltimore County Public Schools has released “Safety Is Our True North,” a document that contains health and safety guidelines for a phased-in transition to hybrid, in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the document’s opening letter, BCPS Superintendent Dr. Darryl L. Williams and Chief of School Climate and Safety Dr. Michael J. Zarchin write, “We share the community’s goal of getting back to ‘normal’ in every way possible, including bringing our students back to school buildings. We understand how important this is for the academic and social-emotional well-being of our children and our communities. We have worked with the Baltimore County Department of Health to establish mitigation plans and will continue to communicate and collaborate as we monitor and respond to changing conditions.”

The comprehensive plan, available online, addresses multiple topics including monitoring community transmission, social and emotional well-being, health services, transportation, building maintenance and ventilation, transportation and food services, and mitigation efforts.

Plan highlights include the following:

• Each Friday, BCPS, in accordance with guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education and Maryland Department of Health, will calculate a COVID-19 School Opening Score based on the county’s positivity rate and number of cases per 100,000 residents. This score will guide the direction and pace of the transition to hybrid in-person learning.

• BCPS disease mitigation initiatives focus on face coverings, social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfecting of buildings and equipment, and contact tracing in collaboration with the local health department. Plans include training for students, parents/caregivers, and staff; signage in buildings; and frequent communication with parents/caregivers.

• The Department of Social-Emotional Supports is developing additional strategies, support documents, and recommendations/guidance related to student and staff well-being.

• New Office of Transportation protocols call for mandatory face coverings, no more than one student per seat (unless they live in the same household), buses operating with open roof hatches and windows when possible, and embarking/disembarking in ways that reduce student-to-student contact.

BCPS staff is reviewing building mechanical systems to increase ventilation and filtration to the equipment’s capacity. The Department of Facilities Management and Strategic Planning is physically verifying the operation of ventilation dampers and controls to provide the proper number of air exchanges per hour.

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