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March 01, 2021

Trone: Students missing out on social interaction

CUMBERLAND — In the shadows of the global pandemic as the House inched closer to passing the American Rescue Plan Friday, some public officials highlighted the proposal’s roughly $130 billion slated to immediately help state education departments safely open schools and make up for lost learning time.

U.S. Reps. David Trone (D-Md.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.), and Bobby Scott — a Virginia Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, discussed at a virtual press conference Friday the importance of getting kids back to classrooms.

In addition to educational value, a return to in-person learning is needed for students to get proper nutrition from school meals, Scott said.

“It’s also critical for social and emotional learning, and our ability to identify child abuse and neglect,” he said.

“And also let’s be honest, you’re not going to be able to open the economy until you open the schools,” Scott said. “We want to open the schools as soon as it can be done safely.”

Congress can play a crucial role in helping schools do that, he said.

“Schools will use this funding for a wide variety of safety precautions,” Scott said of COVID-19 mitigation strategies including the purchase of personal protective equipment for students and staff, expansion of transportation services to prevent crowded buses, and repairs of ventilation systems.

“This money is not just for reopening the schools, it is also intended to help schools address the severe impact that the pandemic has had on students and staff,” he said.

The long-term school closures “really hit women in the workplace especially hard,” Beyer said.

“Many have been forced to drop out entirely because they had to be a primary care giver,” he said. “Virtually all of the job loss in the United States in December was women.”

Trone talked of the isolation many students face because they lack access to internet.

Up to 40% of students in Western Maryland don’t have fast, affordable, reliable broadband, he said.

Many students miss social interaction including sports, Trone said.

“The other big issue is mental health,” he said. “What’s more important than the mental health of our kids?”

Back to school

Local jurisdictions will begin to transition back to school buildings for concurrent in-person/hybrid learning next week.

Allegany County Public Schools students in pre-K, kindergarten, first-grade, and those struggling with virtual learning or identified as having special needs will to return to school Monday.

Grades two through five, six, nine and 12 will return March 8; and grades seven, eight, 10 and 11 will return March 15 on a rotational schedule based on their last name.

Options for more in-person opportunities will be reviewed at the March 9 ACPS education board meeting.

The Garrett County Public Schools students in pre-K, kindergarten, first-grade, and other identified students, will return to in-person learning for full days beginning Monday, with each Wednesday as an asynchronous day.

Beginning March 15, GCPS students in grades two through 12 will return for full days with each Wednesday as an asynchronous day.

West Virginia’s Mineral County Schools this week said students at all grade levels will return to schools full time beginning Monday.

Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon on Friday were at Easton Elementary School in Talbot County to highlight the reopening of schools.

“(Salmon) and I have been strongly pushing school systems to get students safely back into the classroom by March, and we’re pleased that most systems will resume in-person instruction as of Monday,” Hogan said via press release Friday. “I’m looking forward to visiting more school systems across the state in the coming weeks to thank all the teachers, staff, and administrators who have been working so hard to get our kids back into the classrooms.”