FREDERICK, Md. (WDVM) — Students at Waverley Elementary School were visited by Governor Larry Hogan and Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry Alban.
About 70 percent of students at the school are English learners, Alban explained, and part of small student units that have returned to the classroom.
“There are a lot of kids that with the small classrooms, with teachers being there to work with them on their instruction it’s been a tremendous benefit and we’re seeing that in counties all across the state,” Hogan said.
Nearly 1,300 students within the county were identified for small group in-person learning where hands-on education is essential. Students are required to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance. Alban explained the cohort includes special education students, and those with limited internet connection.
“We still have students in Frederick County where internet access is a challenge, so we also have groups of students in our buildings who are there because they need reliable internet access,” Alban said.
In addition, about 130 high school students have returned to the Career and Technology Center (CTC). Hogan toured classrooms that host courses in auto mechanics, science, and medicine.
“In order for students to be able to really show that they have learned or even to learn certain skills, you have to be physically present,” Alban said of the importance of reopening CTC.
The governor, accompanied by state superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon, signaled a push for even more in-person classes.
“We think it’s really important to try to make efforts to get more of them into face-to-face instruction,” Hogan explained. “Our health metrics have hit record lows for every single day of the past week and we’ve been trending downwards for more than three months.”
The visit comes after members of the county school board began discussing reopening plans Wednesday night.
The school system is currently engaged in virtual learning, the first of four different phases. According to FCPS’ reopening plan, the next phase includes a hybrid learning model, with some in-person instruction, for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first, second, sixth, and ninth-grade students.
“From the time they make the decision, it would probably be about four weeks before we could see an increase in the number of students who could come back for face-to-face learning,” said Alban.
But one of the biggest hurdles before more students could step inside the classroom is the number of vacancies in health room staff.
“We’re finding that some people are taking leave, a couple of people have retired,” said Alban, “We have to have a health assistant in every school building.”
The Board of Education is expected to continue school reopening discussions during their October meeting.