At Middletown High School on Friday morning, the buzzers continued to sound, marking the start and end of classes that would never happen.

Instead, a group of teachers and administrators worked at a table outside the school’s entrance, distributing computers and other equipment to help students get ready for distance learning set to begin for Frederick County Public Schools on Monday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kept schools closed for two weeks. And on Thursday, State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that school buildings in Maryland will remain closed through April 24.

Distance learning is going to be:

You voted:

Rows of vehicles lined the school’s parking lot, as parents waited to pick up Chromebook laptop computers and devices that could create internet hot spots, allowing students to access their remote lessons.

Staff volunteers greeted the people in each vehicle as they pulled up in front of the school, writing down each student’s name and checking how many devices were needed. Each device was tied to a student’s school ID number to track where the equipment was going.

A similar scene unfolded at Brunswick High School, with a line of cars that snaked through the parking lot almost to the entrance.

The staff handling the distribution were all volunteers, said Edward Gardner, FCPS’s director of technology.

“They all willingly came in to do this for the community,” he said.

The school system prepared 3,000 Chromebooks and 1,000 hot spots countywide, he said.

FCPS had to buy the new hot spots, but the Chromebooks had been collected from elementary schools across the county.

Secondary students already have Chromebooks, and each elementary school class has about 10 that the students share, Gardner said.

At Gov. Thomas Johnson and Frederick high schools, procedures were slightly different. Hundreds of people lined up outside each school’s entrance before receiving their laptops in the main area.

Many had been waiting for hours, including Gabriel Patino, of Frederick. Patino, who has a son in second grade at Spring Ridge Elementary and a daughter in sixth grade at Thomas Johnson Middle, said he actually went to Oakdale High School first, and waited there for two hours.

The school, however, ran out of Chromebooks, so he went over to TJ to get a laptop.

“We have to be ready and have a plan to react to these kind of events instead of having a reaction to something that just happened,” Patino said of the situation Friday.

Dan Lippy, principal of Thomas Johnson High School, said as of Friday morning, about 240 tickets had been handed out for Chromebooks. School officials had been handing those tickets out to parents, and 800 were available at the school, Lippy said.

Lippy said staff were working through the glitches of implementing the new system, which included checking student and parent IDs when they were in the building, and cleaning the laptops before handing them to parents.

He understood people’s frustration as they waited in line, but asked for their patience as the school district was rolling out a brand-new system.

“The scariest part about this right now is we’re in the unknown,” Lippy said. “Everybody is a little frustrated. ... The more we can get back to a normal routine, the better.”

The last two weeks without school have been “a learning curve” for many parents, including Chelsey Lowery. Lowery waited in her car Friday at Middletown High to get Chromebooks for her son and daughter, twin fourth-graders at Myersville Elementary.

They’ve been doing some science projects and learning basic life skills around the house, to try to keep the kids occupied and learning, Lowery said.

But they’ve missed their friends, their classes and their routine, she said.

Some were disappointed at the process Friday, including some parents at Thomas Johnson, who said picking up the Chromebooks by appointment would have been better than waiting in line.

And Madelyn Hayward, who has three children — one each at Lincoln Elementary, West Frederick Middle and Frederick High — said she was disappointed at the lack of social distancing.

“Why are we standing in large crowds when we shouldn’t be?” Hayward said, alluding to orders by Gov. Larry Hogan and the White House. “I just think we could be doing this way better.”

She said she eventually stepped out of line once she learned a friend would lend her a spare Chromebook.

Some were more understanding, including Giselly Jimenez, who has children in fifth and eighth grade at Monocacy elementary and middle schools. She said people should exercise patience as school staff work through unprecedented times.

But she also understood what some other parents might be experiencing.

“I’m lucky my kids are old enough to fend for themselves,” Jimenez said. “I can’t imagine the parents that have usually had to have a baby sitter, or can’t afford to pay the extra hours for baby-sitting now that kids aren’t in school, so I’m sure that it’s been a lot tougher on them.”

At Middletown High School, Angela Baker said she arrived shortly after 9 a.m., and called the sheriff’s office to see if someone could come out to help with traffic.

Traffic around the town’s cluster of schools can be difficult on regular school days, and you could see a similar situation Friday, she said. But the officers got everyone organized in about 10 minutes.

As an instructional assistant with FCPS, Baker said the time since schools closed has been filled with trying to find things for her fifth- and sixth-graders to do.

Her daughter was working on an art project, sending her pictures as she waited.

“[It’s] just taking that extra step as a parent, saying, let’s find something to do,” she said.

Lynsey Romanek, a social worker at Brunswick High School, went from car to car on Friday, checking in with parents and seeing what technology they needed.

A Brunswick graduate, she had run into several of her former classmates waiting in line, she said.

While working from home, she’d kept in touch with students and families during the closure, she said.

But it was nice to be out and doing something, she said.

“I’m glad to have reported to work today,” she said.

Steve Bohnel is the county government reporter for the Frederick News-Post. He can be reached at sbohnel@newspost.com. He graduated from Temple University, with a journalism degree in May 2017, and is a die-hard Everton F.C. fan.

Ryan Marshall is the transportation and growth and development reporter for the News-Post. He can be reached at rmarshall@newspost.com.

(46) comments

Comment deleted.
mrnatural1

Russian,

You hit on an important issue with "...high density virus vulnerable disaster zones."

In the case of a pandemic like this, areas with high population density are certainly much more vulnerable. NYC is a prime example.

That's one critical flaw in the "smart growth" model in which people are packed tightly together in high-rise apt buildings, and expected to crowd into buses and subway cars every day.

RoseChandler

welldone

The Grape of Wrath

Thank the FCPS for choosing Chromebooks in place of grossly overpriced Windows or Apple Laptops. They do the job, don't require greedy license fees to Goon Gates or Jerk Jobs, and require much less expensive chips. However you will have Bozo Bezos in your face and he will have access to everyhing you do and write. So students must be sure to use the Chromebook only for schoolwork and nothing else. Now we have to deal with the poor students who do not have internet access. There was a program under Obama to provide free or subsidized high speed internet service to every household lacking it, but Republicans killed it as 'Democratic socialism' just as they have tried and tried to kill Obamacare and the Obama phone. So lack of service is the next obstacle for online schooling. There is never any social progress under Republicans. None, ever.

tonyc51

The school system prepared 3,000 Chromebooks and 1,000 hot spots countywide, he said.

FCPS had to buy the new hot spots. Assume the hot spots were to provide access to those.

shiftless88

The hot spots were for anyone without internet. A hot spot does not care what kind of device you link through it.

Comment deleted.
The Grape of Wrath

Not to mention private 401(k) and Roths into private employees.

Russian

You don’t blame the moron for taking a job you blame the persons who hired him.

The Grape of Wrath

The person who hired him knowing he was a moron because the person actually wanted a moron.

Russian

And here we are today immersed in chaos

Russian

No public corporation would ever put an imbecile at the head of their organization with the exception of the American People

Russian

I’ve seen better coordination in an Africa famine than what I’m witnessing in America today.

The Grape of Wrath

And we thought Dumbya was bad handling Katrina.

Obadiah Plainsmen

This an excerpt from an article co-authored by Fauci for The New England Journal of Medicine published this month. The entire article at the link.

If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.2

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387

mrnatural1

Very informative article Obadiah, thanks for the quote and the link.

That's good news, however the article also says:

"The efficiency of transmission for any respiratory virus has important implications for containment and mitigation strategies. The current study indicates an estimated basic reproduction number (R0) of 2.2, which means that, on average, each infected person spreads the infection to an additional two persons. As the authors note, until this number falls below 1.0, it is likely that the outbreak will continue to spread."

Fauci and his co-authors do not give a solid figure for the mortality rate, they just say:

"...the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%." Let's say it's 0.5%. With an RO of 2.2, and people going to Mardi Gras and Spring Break (etc, etc) there's a good chance the infection rate will be closer to the high end of the estimate -- 70%:

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-outbreak-could-hit-3-billion-adults-harvard-expert-2020-3

70% of 330,000,000 American citizens = 231,000,000 people infected. If 0.5% of them don't make it, that's well over one million deaths. For reference, about 58,000 died in the entire Vietnam War; 116,000 in WWI; 405,000 in WWII; 36,000 in the Koran War; and <7,000 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

COVID-19 could kill more than all of those wars combined.

Still, it's definitely good to hear that Fauci thinks the mortality rate is actually lower than originally thought. That is promising. Hopefully with people getting more serious about social distancing the percentage infected will be much lower than 70%.

shiftless88

That makes the assumption, however, that everyone with the flu is diagnosed and counted as well. Not a great assumption.

FCPSAdmin

Long lines. Inadequate supplies. Bad logistics. Crowds that endangered parents and staff and violated public health orders. FCPS had weeks and weeks to plan and prepare for this. The fact that we’re looking at the very best Alban and her staff can do should give us all serious pause. What’s their plan for making sure the actual teaching and learning with the tech they (almost) distributed will be more successful than this debacle? Gulp.

llrowse

This was not a debacle. Adults are capable of social distancing, or did you want a playground assistant hired to make sure that social distancing was taking place? All you do is whine and complain. I asked you before, I’ll ask you again: HOW DO YOU INTEND TO HELP? Your supercilious behavior seems all that you have to offer.

bosco

From the CDC:

Wear a facemask if you are sick

If you are sick: You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.

If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Comment deleted.
llrowse

Your toxic comments are nothing more than fear mongering.

bosco

Thanks to the FNP for helping to spread Covid19 panic and fear.

Why are those FCPS employees wearing gloves? Were they handing out toxic Chromebooks? Do gloves keep you from catching or spreading Covid19? Why were people infected with Covid19 standing in line - they must be sick if they are wearing masks.

Seriously, the masks do nothing to keep you from getting the Covid19 unless they are an N-95 mask. Dust masks from Home Deport do not filter out viruses. Gloves? The only thing gloves do is keep the wearer's hands clean.

Wash your hands and keep them away from your face!

sevenstones1000

Masks help to protect others if YOU yourself have the virus and don’t know it. I doubt anyone intentionally spread the virus. That is why I think we should all be wearing them. To protect others. The gloves are useless. Wash your hands.

bosco

Precisely sevenstones. People are using personal protective equipment with no idea why and no idea how to properly use it. That's more dangerous than not using it at all.

The Grape of Wrath

Actually, no. An ill fitting mask or cotton gloves are better than no mask or gloves.

ma23464

A cheap Home Depot mask can help. Even the N95 masks are not 100 percent effective at filtering out the virus. But any mask will help. Even a face shield. Gloves help because a dirty glove is likely cleaner then a clean hand. Also you are less likely to touch your face with a glove on.

It’s about reducing exposure. Limiting the number of live virus that enter your body.

bosco

A dirty glove is cleaner than a clean hand?

bosco

"Bosco is apparently getting his information from Rush Limbaugh or something. Dude, if someone handling the chromebook has the virus the virus is then on the computer. If a recipient touches it and then touches their hands to their nose, eyes, mouth (food) then they can become infected. This is pretty straightforward."

Yes, if someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches their face, eyes, food without washing their hands they can become infected. That's true with any contaminate, virus, or germ. That's why handwashing is the key.

Several days ago I watched a twenty-something wearing rubber gloves open a carry out bag of food and proceed to eat her lunch all while wearing the same gloves she had been wearing. Those gloves do not disinfect anything at all.

Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.

The Grape of Wrath

You are spreading danger just like the Dotard. Plastic gloves are good because you do not know who in the supply chain has handled the chromebooks. Supply chain people are still at work. No mask is will filter free airborne viruses but any mask, even a halloween mask, will intercept some level of virus-laden dust or saliva particles. The higher the rating the better they are in terms of particle size.

bosco

So if someone hands out a Chromebook coated with Covid19 virus, where is the danger? Are you going to lick it? Are you going to rub it on your face?

Treat it like any other item in the world should you touch it. Wash your hands and don't touch your face.

Of course, handwashing is not being taught at home or at school nowadays. That's why people are getting sick. The dust mask makes a nice party hat and the rubber gloves just keep your hands clean.

llrowse

Anything that comes into my house is cleaned with Lysol. There are disinfectants that can be made using common household items. There is no reason for hysteria.

shiftless88

Bosco is apparently getting his information from Rush Limbaugh or something. Dude, if someone handling the chromebook has the virus the virus is then on the computer. If a recipient touches it and then touches their hands to their nose, eyes, mouth (food) then they can become infected. This is pretty straightforward.

mrnatural1

Good points bosco.

Wearing gloves does not make any sense. It might, if the coronavirus could not remain viable on latex or nitrile -- but it can and does.

The only legitimate use for those gloves are dirty jobs -- for example, mechanical work or dumping RV tanks. Grease and contaminated water get on gloves just as they would hands. Anything the wearer touches while wearing gloves will become dirty/contaminated.

Silly humans.

One thing I'll admit I don't understand is the advice that masks should only be worn by people who have COVID-19 and medical personnel. I get that there is a shortage, and that with a limited supply the masks -- particularly the N95 type -- should be reserved for medical professionals. If they simply left it at that I wouldn't question it, but there are actually authorities saying that wearing a mask is of no use, and potentially harmful(!) to a healthy person -- but they *are* useful to caregivers. That makes no sense to me. Again, I understand reserving the masks for medical personnel -- what I question is the assertion that N95 masks work for them but not everyone else. That seems disingenuous to me. See these links:

https://www.businessinsider.com/types-of-masks-used-for-coronavirus-outbreak-n95-surgical-2020-3

https://www.businessinsider.com/americans-dont-need-masks-pence-says-as-demand-increases-2020-2

https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-face-masks-who-needs-2020-2

https://www.businessinsider.com/americans-dont-need-masks-pence-says-as-demand-increases-2020-2

I question advice like this:

"The [CDC's] guidance is:You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A face mask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected."

Umm...what about people who are infected but asymptomatic? We're told they can also spread the virus. Wouldn't it be safer for everyone to at least wear a basic surgical mask (not N95) -- to protect others in the event they are unaware they are infected?

mrnatural1

Adding to my comment above:

I just found the following NYT article:

"Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired":

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/17/opinion/coronavirus-face-masks.html

And this one:

"More Americans Should Probably Wear Masks for Protection":

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/health/us-coronavirus-face-masks.html

shiftless88

The gloves are to protect from spreading germs when handling the Chromebook. Because people can spread the virus for almost two weeks before they prevent systems, people in public should act as if THEY are carriers. So using gloves is the right thing to do when an object is going to be handled by several people.

bosco

How do those gloves prevent spreading germs any more than bare hands? Do thos gloves have magical disinfecting powers?

Any object touched by other people, door knobs, hand rails, grocery cart handles, etc etc is contaminated by all sorts of beasties. That's why hand washing is so important to break the chain of contamination.

llrowse

Thank you admin, teachers, and staff for your selfless devotion to the education of our children. To those who physically handed out tech equipment: You have gone where angels fear to tread. Bless you. Regarding social distancing: The folks picking up equipment are perfectly capable of making sure that they are standing 6 feet apart. There is no need for staff supervision to enforce social distancing.

walkngal63

[thumbup]

FCPSAdmin

Alban required parents to crowd together in long lines for hours. In violation of public health orders and recommendations. Many left empty handed because of her lack of planning. She forced staff (who are certainly selfless) to preside over this disaster. The callous idea that people should just look out for themselves in these circumstances isn’t helpful. Accountability starts at the top.

The Grape of Wrath

Alban required no such thing. Can you show us her order?

llrowse

This person is incapable of doing anything other than making accusations, and allowing paranoid delusion to rule his thinking. He has nothing valuable to add.

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