BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was back to school — in person — for many Maryland students Monday as hybrid learning begins across most districts.
Weeks of planning led up to the return of students to classrooms this week. On Monday, those plans were put in action.READ MORE: Masks Will Be Required In Schools, Including Classrooms, Gyms, Hallways, Gov. Larry Hogan Says
It was a new experience for some students who had their first-ever day of in-person learning.
Pre-K through second grade students return first in Baltimore County.
Ava-Joye Burnett: “What is it gonna be like to go inside the door?”
Quinn Conway, Kindergartener: “Awesome.”
Quinn’s father Scott also happens to be the principal at her school, Owings Mills Elementary.
“I’m really excited for her to be back in school and have the experience with the teacher in front of you, to have kids around her,” he said.
March 1 is the deadline that Gov. Larry Hogan set weeks ago to have students back in the classrooms.
Baltimore County Schools said it has been preparing for this moment for a long time, adding it feels well prepared to welcome back the first group of students.
“From the moment they get on the bus to the moment they come off the bus at the end of the day, they’ll see some changes,” said Charles Herndon with Baltimore County Public Schools.
That means one student per seat on the school bus and every other seat will be vacant.
All students must wear masks and social distance in classrooms and hallways.
A third of all Pre-K through second grade students are planning to return at this point. Plus, the county is reopening four of its separate public day schools.
Teachers have been back in their classrooms for the last week. Some are preparing to simultaneously teach students in-person class and online.
“It definitely will be a challenge, but just like when we first started in virtual learning, that was a challenge and… I’m quite sure our teachers in Baltimore County, they will pick it up quickly,” teacher Jocelyn Taylor said. “We are very resilient.”
The school district said it will be working with families on an individual basis and anticipates hybrid education will be available to all students in early April.
Baltimore City has already brought some students back for small group sessions but is also bringing back its youngest learners Monday.
At Waverly Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said 100% of teachers returned to the classroom.
Some teachers from across the state are worried there could be COVID-19 outbreaks in their schools. Santelizes said there will be regular weekly testing in an attempt to stay ahead of the virus.
Students in lower grades will be tested by classroom cluster, while older students will be tested individually.READ MORE: Baltimore City Schools To Offer Weekly COVID-19 Testing For Students, Staff
“It goes to the lab and very quickly comes back to show us if any of the students or people in that cluster have any strain of COVID,” she said.
Elementary school students in Harford and Anne Arundel Counties were also able to return to the classroom under a hybrid learning model.
Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said the protocols have been in the works for months.
“Every little protocol, from how you come in the building, how you move in the hallways, how you sit in the cafeteria has all been thought of,” he said.
Right now, most kids are only allowed inside the building two days a week, but that could change, Bulson said.
“We’re fortunate in Harford County; the metrics have been dropping so we hope pretty quickly we can move to a four-day-a-week offering,” he said.
Electromagnetic sprayers are being used to disinfect classrooms, the cafeteria and hallways as students move about the building.
— Rachael Cardin (@RachaelCardin) March 1, 2021
First grade teacher Beth Watson said her kids are complying to all rules magnificently.
“They make sure they mask up, they walk and keep a distance between them, especially those here in the fall — they pick up right where we left off,” she said.
Harford County teacher, Beth Watson, said, “we want normal back. We miss them, we miss normal, we became teachers because we love being around the students so even though this is hard, and another thing to get used to, we are ready.” @wjz pic.twitter.com/DSPq17erh0
— Rachael Cardin (@RachaelCardin) March 1, 2021
Many teachers, Watson said, are excited to be back: “just to see their faces is worth all of this.”
Thirty-five percent of students in Harford County are choosing to remain remote. In Anne Arundel County, the percentage of solely virtual learners is 62%.
“We tried to be as aggressive as we could but as prudent as we could and that’s the course we’ll continue to follow,” Anne Arundel County Schools spokesperson Bob Mosier said,
By March 26, every student in Anne Arundel County who wants to return to in-person learning will have had the opportunity to do so.
“This is students in front of teachers in classrooms and it’s just amazing to see,” Mosier said.