Despite the looming COVID-19 variant and a significant number of unvaccinated individuals — including younger children — Calvert County’s public school administrators and teachers are preparing for a highly anticipated return to classes next month.

During the board of education’s July meeting, administrators presented of overview of the return strategy.

Assistant Superintendent Susan Johnson noted that the plan complies with mandates from the Maryland State Department of Education with additional feedback from the local health department and parents.

Johnson announced the state is implementing a “full athletic program” for Maryland high schools.

“Some local decisions have to be made,” Johnson said, explaining that Calvert’s interscholastic middle school sports programs remain up in the air for this fall.

Johnson added that there also remains uncertainty as to whether Calvert public schools can hold large events such as the STEM Expo and allow students to go on field trips.

On matters academic, Johnson said programs, including IDEA, 504, Title II (Americans with Disabilities Act) “will be implemented as the plans are written. Distance learning plans will be incorporated in the individual education plans in case a shutdown is required in the future.”

This week, the school system has been accepting input on the reopening plan, which has to be finalized by July 30.

Under the category of unchanged items from the system’s original reopening plan are the implementation of a full prekindergarten to 12th grade curriculum, identification of learning gaps, implementation of the system’s equity plan and providing a description of how attendance for students engaged in distance learning will be tracked.

Masking requirements will apparently pose one of the bigger obstacles for school administrators and teachers when the new school year starts.

“As of July 1, [Calvert public schools] opened schools with no masking [requirement] for vaccinated students and staff,” Johnson stated. “While it is a recommendation that those who are not vaccinated wear masks, it is not required.”

Wearing masks will be required on buses, parents will be requested to provide school nurses with children’s vaccination documents and distancing will still be encouraged, Johnson stated.

She stressed that while school nurses can do COVID-19 screening of students, parents have to give approval.

“Masking is one of the toughest decisions that will have to be made,” said Superintendent Daniel Curry.

Current health department statistics indicate that the COVID-19 vaccination rate among Calvert’s 12- to 18-year-old population is 46%. Some vaccines are approved for individuals over the age of 12, but none so far have been approved in the United States for children younger than 12.

“COVID is still here,” said Curry. “The variant is present.”

The superintendent did add that if a child “has been exposed, but vaccinated, they are not going to have to miss school.” However, an unvaccinated child exposed to the coronavirus will have to stay out of school for 10 days. Curry encouraged parents to have children ages 12 and up vaccinated.

“I anticipate you’ll have to make some changes,” board member Pat Nutter told administrators, noting that the COVID-19 situation remains fluid.

“There’s still a lot of fear out there,” board member Dawn Balinski added.

Twitter: @MartySoMdNews

Twitter: @MartySoMdNews