As students are being phased back into school buildings in Calvert County for hybrid instruction, a local delegate is pushing for a 100% back to school model, as well as more transparency from the county’s board of education.
Del. Mark N. Fisher (R-Calvert) said in an interview earlier this week that he was planning a “Reopen Calvert Schools” event on Thursday, Feb. 18, at 6:30 p.m. at the Calvert Republican Headquarters in Prince Frederick, where he would call on school board members to open schools fully for students, as well as allow a full athletics season, pointing to the fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said schools can now reopen safely.
While Calvert public schools reopened for students in special populations and those in pre-kindergarten through second grade on Feb. 8, hybrid instruction will began for students in grades three through six on Feb. 22, where groups of students attend in person one week and then learn from home the next. Grades seven through 12 will return to the hybrid model on March 8, and fully virtual instruction will continue for students whose families chose the virtual model.
The high school fall sports season was set to begin this weekend in Calvert, along with fine and performing arts after-school activities with special health guidelines being enacted.
On Tuesday, Fisher shared with Southern Maryland News, “It’s time for students to be back in schools” full time, and noted there is “enormous damage” being done, far greater than would occur if they did return. He suggested putting in place a back-to-school model similar to that in Florida, where, since September, all students have been attending school five days a week unless they have elected to stick with virtual learning.
“The idea that schools can’t open is silly,” he said, adding he supports a “common sense” approach. Learning remotely is not as good as in-person instruction, he said, but those consequences are only felt by those who choose to remain home. He claimed he has heard from many parents, and a large number “want children back in schools.”
The delegate also mentioned the school board is “prohibiting public comment” during their meetings and using the COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual aspect of their meetings as “an excuse.”
“It’s against the open meetings act,” Fisher said. “The school board apparently is not interested in what parents” have to say.
Inez Claggett, chair of the county’s school board, shared Wednesday morning the board is accepting public comment, which can be emailed to Karen Maxey, their administrative assistant, at email@example.com or sent in writing to 1305 Dares Beach Road, Prince Frederick, MD 20678. She said those comments are then compiled into a document and posted with their online meeting agenda for the public to view.
They are not, however, read aloud during meetings.
During the Feb. 11 Calvert school board meeting, member Patrick Nutter said he had received a call from Del. Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) who said he was receiving calls from several people asking why citizens cannot address the board during its virtual meetings.
Dawn Balinski, another member, mentioned some districts will show taped video recordings of public comment during their meetings. She said she’d like to “give people that opportunity” and suggested possibly bringing people in for comment when meetings begin occurring in the board room again, similar to how county commissioners do.
The Charles County school board is holding its meetings virtually and they are closed to the public. However, the St. Mary’s County school board meetings are currently open to the public, including for public comment.