Baltimore County schools prepare for potential transitions to virtual learning

Baltimore County schools will be closed for two days to give teachers time to prepare for potential transition to virtual learning amid a surge in coronavirus cases, leaders from the school system and five labor unions announced in a message to the community on Saturday.

Baltimore County Superintendent Darryl L. Williams and the top officials from its five labor unions said in their message that school buildings would be closed on Monday and Tuesday "to provide staff with the time needed to prepare instructional lessons in the event of a temporary transition to virtual learning for their specific school.”

They noted that “independent learning activities” were prepared for the students so that their education would not be as disrupted.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are providing this planning time to all teachers now to minimize disruption should an individual school have to temporarily shift to virtual instruction. Currently, schools that are temporarily switching to virtual instruction are starting off with two days of asynchronous (independent) learning before live instruction begins on day three,” the school system and labor union leaders wrote.

“We want to eliminate that asynchronous period and make certain that students are receiving live instruction on the first day of the temporary virtual period.”

The school district and labor union leaders also acknowledged that decisions to move students to virtual learning are made as “the absolute last resort.”

The Baltimore Sun reported that some Baltimore County schools have required some or all of their students to move to virtual learning as the school system was flooded with COVID-19 cases, quarantine restrictions and staffing shortages. The hurdles ultimately hampered the ability for in-person learning following students' winter break.

Schools are grappling with how to handle a surge of COVID-19 cases amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant. 

On Friday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyStudy finds high levels of omicron-fighting antibodies four months after Pfizer booster Antisemitic fliers left at hundreds of Miami Beach homes Thousands descend on DC for anti-vaccine mandate rally MORE announced new guidelines for students, teacher and staff, cutting the isolation for those infected to five days. 

“Our updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine, and our prior publications and continued assessment of test-to-stay protocols in schools, provide the tools necessary to get these schools reopened for in-person learning and to keep them open for the rest of the school year,” Walensky said.