CAMBRIDGE, Md. (WJZ) — Dorchester County Schools switched back to virtual learning Thursday after a coronavirus surge in their community.

Dave Bromwell, Superintendent of Dorchester County Schools, posted a message explaining the move.

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He said the county has seen an increase in its COVID-19 positivity rate, meeting the health and safety metrics that require a reassessment.

“That’s why we felt we had to really slow down,” Bromwell said. “We’ll go back to phase one, then we’ll relook at this once our positivity rate is down.”

“Not only do you have to keep your students safe, but you have to keep all of your employees safe,” he added.

The school buildings will be closed to students and staff. Thursday, Friday and next Monday, October 26, will be asynchronous learning for students.

On Tuesday, October 27, they will return to their phase one virtual learning schedule.

Dorchester County Schools issued the following statement:

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“Over the last six days the Dorchester County community has seen an increase in its COVID-19 positivity rate. The positivity rate has increased exponentially to make Dorchester County the 3rd highest in the state of Maryland over this short period of time. Today alone our case rate was 30.9 giving Dorchester County a positivity rate of 6.1%. This is up from 2.5% on October 10, 2020. These both meet the health and safety metrics that require a reassessment.

Through the continued collaboration of the Dorchester County Health Department and DCPS, we both have agreed that in the interest of health and safety and out of an abundance of caution, to close our school buildings. I repeat, the school buildings will be closed to students and staff, with staff teleworking until further notice. This Thursday October 22nd, Friday October 23rd, and Monday October 26th will be asynchronous learning for students. Beginning Tuesday October 27th, we will return to our phase one virtual learning schedule for students and staff.

Parents, staff and students, I am just as frustrated for the need to make this decision as you are, but please know that this difficult decision was not taken lightly, and done in full collaboration with the Dorchester County Health Department. My first priority is the safety and health of our community. If you have any additional questions, please contact your school administrative team or your child’s teacher through email.”

This comes at a time when several school CEOs and superintendents met with Maryland lawmakers to share concerns about financial help as they work to safely reopen schools.

“It would be so much more helpful if we could rely on consistency across the state,” Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises said.

The Maryland State Department of Education said it was not invited to attend the hearing, but that “specific and step-by-step definitive guidance on addressing suspected or positive COVID cases and outbreaks in schools has been provided since July, with an update in August. Additionally, the guidance provides health metrics for school systems to utilize as they consider returning to various forms of in-person instruction.”

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to theMaryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage oncoronavirus in Maryland here.

Kelsey Kushner