TOWSON, Md. (WJZ) – The Baltimore County public school system is one of the districts in Maryland that started the 2021-2022 school year this week. On day two of the new school year, Superintendent Darryl Williams and other school leaders provided an update on the transition back into the classroom for tens of thousands of students.

WJZ went out into the community and got questions that parents wanted to ask the superintendent.

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Gloria Johnson spoke with WJZ in Towson. She said she has a stepdaughter who is in the 12th grade. Johnson asked, “How are you guys going to social distance within these classrooms?”

“In terms of the social distancing, we know that with our secondary schools, the pods of kids they interact because of class changes,” Williams said. “We really want to push for more of our kids who are eligible to get the vaccine.”

Mike Zarchin, the chief of school climate and safety also responded to that question by saying: “Our first focus is trying to encourage students to get vaccinated. That Is the number one thing we could do to protect the health of our students.”

Some students missed more than a full academic year of in-person learning, and parents have expressed concerns about learning loss.

Rhonda Pierce said her granddaughter is 12 years old. She asked, “How can you help the kids that are struggling already get caught up in order to be successful?”

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“Schools also have access to resources to provide after-school tutoring, so that is an additional layer of support that helps with learning acceleration,” said Mary Boswell-McComas, the chief academic officer. “And of course if they have any questions along the way, reach out to the teacher right away, and that partnership is really going to be essential to make sure that we are helping every student move forward.”

Students 12 and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s not mandatory and some parents are still worried about an outbreak.

When asked about the protocol that’s currently in place to notify parents if a student has tested positive, Zarchin said: “Our nurses have worked incredibly hard, not only to identify when students come into contact with somebody who has tested positive, but also to communicate that information with families. A letter will go out that says your child either came into contact with somebody who’s tested positive, or we’re sharing this information to let you know your child did not come into contact with somebody who tested positive.”

The superintendent said the district is working with the health department to provide COVID-19 vaccines for students who are 12 and older.

A school spokesperson also said the district is working on a dashboard to determine how many of their staff members have been vaccinated. The spokesperson also said if staff and teachers are not vaccinated, the school district is developing a system to track weekly testing.

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Ava-joye Burnett