Page Updated 8/28/20
Letter to Families 8/28/20
The staff returned to work virtually this week with back to school training and preparation for September 8, the first day of virtual instruction.
Back to school packets are being mailed today with information about the upcoming year.
I’m sure many of you heard Governor Hogan’s and Superintendent Salmon’s press conference yesterday, and this may have raised questions regarding what that means for MSB.
He discussed the current Maryland statistics regarding COVID-19 laid out the case for reopening schools including metrics which are outlined in a document called COVID-19 Guidance for Maryland Schools. This was something that I and other superintendents felt was needed: measurable, science-based guidance to understand whether local community transmission is being suppressed to the degree that schools can safely reopen.
Those metrics align with those in the MSB Return to School Plan:
- Sufficient testing (indicated by <5% positivity rate)
- Declining case counts over 14 days
- Adequate contact tracing and isolation/quarantine
- Low number of active cases per capita (7 day moving average)
Governor Hogan and Dr. Jinlene Chan of the Maryland Health Department addressed each of these areas yesterday including a defined measure of <5 active cases per 100,000 as the benchmark for “expanded in-person school programs.”
In the guidance document, there is a range of <5/100,000 per capita when case counts are favorable for expanded in-person programs to >15/100,000 per capita when case rates are more risky, prescribing limited in-person or virtual instruction.
Currently most counties have active case counts greater than 5—Baltimore city, Baltimore and PG counties have a case counts over 10/100,000 per capita which means that they should reopen cautiously with hybrid or partially in-person programs.
Case counts, and other indicators of prevalence of COVID-19 in the communities where our students reside are important considerations for MSB’s reopening and moving up from tier to tier.
Dr. Chan also said that a condition for reopening includes the ability of students to adhere to mask wearing and social distancing. We know that many of our students are unable to do so for all of the reasons described in our plan. So more state level guidance is needed regarding that issue.
Our medical team has recommended, if at all feasible, to include frequent, rapid COVID-19 testing as part of our return to school plan. This contradicts the state guidance document which specifically mentions that testing is not necessary for schools to reopen, but for good reasons. MSB’s medically fragile student population and residential program sets us apart from typical public schools. MSB in some ways is similar to a nursing home in risk factors for COVID-19. Testing could make it possible to for students to return to campus sooner. However, rapid, saliva based tests are not yet widely available and MSB would need considerable financial support to implement such a testing program.
We plan to stay the course in Tier 1 of our reopening plan with limited in-person individual student assessments and instruction.
And we will reassess whether to expand on-campus, in-person instruction on or before October 9, before the start of the second marking period, as we shared previously.
Please remember, that if in-person instruction is not safe for your family, we will continue to provide the option for virtual learning until conditions improve.
We also encourage families to try safe mask wearing with their children in preparation for on-campus instruction. For safety, masks should only be used if students can remove them independently.
If masks are not an option, perhaps a face shield is. Please experiment and see if anything works for your child.
We know that some students will be unable to wear masks or shields, so please don’t worry about that.
The MSB plan will be updated incorporating the new state metrics.
To view the most recent version of the plan, please go to the Maryland School for the Blind website, or click here.
Wishing you all the best for a great weekend.
W. Robert Hair, Superintendent
Return to School Plan
For the Most Recent Updated please view the Google Doc: MSB Return to School Plan