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GCPS Superintendent Barbara Baker and GCHD Health Officer Bob Stephens Release Joint Letter to Community

Last Updated on Aug 30, 2020 at 8:12pm | Public Information Office

Letter from Superintendent and GCHD Health Officer:

August 30, 2020

Dear GCPS Families,

We are writing to provide you with more information specific to the reopening of Garrett County Public Schools’ facilities in light of the announcements made late Thursday afternoon by Governor Larry Hogan, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon and Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan.
 
Throughout the many weeks that we have been formulating our reopening plan, school system and Garrett County Health Department officials have been in contact on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis. The sole purpose of the ongoing conversations is to ensure a safe return to in-person learning for all students and staff. We have previously announced plans to bring small groups of students back into buildings in a systematic and careful manner. We have also said repeatedly that we will adjust the schedule and move more quickly if it is safe to do so.

The metrics announced at Thursday’s news conference are important to understand. To even consider a “green” in-person learning model for all, a jurisdiction must have a positivity rate under 5 percent on a rolling seven-day average. If that is the case, the county can proceed to the second metric. Currently, every jurisdiction in the state meets this threshold. The second metric involves new cases per 100,000 residents per day (incidence rate) for a rolling seven-day period. If a jurisdiction has an incidence rate of less than 5 per 100,000 over a seven-day average, that jurisdiction may open for expanded in-person learning. However, if a jurisdiction has an incidence rate of more than 5 per 100,000 over a seven-day average, that jurisdiction may only consider opening for hybrid learning.

As of the date of this letter, Garrett County’s 7-day positivity rate is .5% and the case rate is 1%. This means that the school system could return to in-person learning if the decision is based solely on the metrics. However, there are many logistical issues that need to be addressed before the school system can return to full in-person learning. We must transport students to & from school and educate students in classrooms while adhering to the physical distancing guidelines provided by the Governor on Thursday. Furthermore, if there is a sudden increase in either the case rate or positivity rate throughout the county, a discussion between local health and education officials will be necessary to determine if changes are needed to prevent the spread of the virus. Similar discussions will need to occur if a school has a positive case. By proceeding slowly with the plan currently in place, we hope to avoid having to close schools or the entire system shortly after our return.

We fully recognize that there are many parents who want their students back in school buildings full-time as quickly as possible. So do we, and we are tirelessly working toward that end so that we can resume our in-person instructional program. As previously stated, the current plan is designed to use a virtual platform in order to keep every student and employee of the Garrett County Public School system healthy and safe.

As we move forward in these trying times, it is critical that we all work together to ensure our students receive the best education available in the safest way possible. We thank you for your patience and understanding as we move forward to that end.

Barbara L. Baker
GCPS Superintendent
Barbara Baker
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Robert Stephens, MS
Garrett County Health Officer
Robert Stephens

 

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