The decision to suspend small group instruction and winter sports practices and return Frederick County Public Schools to an entirely virtual mode was made quickly after the New Year following spikes in county health metrics.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban said in an email Monday to the News-Post that the surge of cases seen after Thanksgiving combined with concerns over the growing number of hospitalizations in the county prompted the decision, which was announced to the public on Sunday.

Alban said school system leaders and County Health Officer Dr. Barbara Brookmyer had been closely monitoring the metrics since Dec. 29.

“We talked about the post-holiday surge from Thanksgiving that hit a peak on Dec. 11. If we saw a similar surge after Christmas and New Year, it could be worse because our numbers were already so high,” Alban said. “We talked about the potential impact this could have on small groups, sports, and hybrid instruction. We knew we would need to keep monitoring the data. By the end of the week, the numbers were getting worse.”

All small-group instruction and winter sports practices for the school system are now suspended until further notice.

Lane Gregory, a parent of two FCPS students, feels the school system made the right call, noting the rising metrics across Frederick County.

“There is no way to track what school employees, teachers or students were doing over break, so the risk is just too high. Virtual instruction is far from ideal, but I just don’t see how anything in person is sustainable right now,” she said.

Mia Martinez, a senior at Brunswick High School and the student member of the Frederick County Board of Education, said she has been a proponent of bringing students back to school, but she feels safety needs to be the top priority.

“My peers are struggling and need to get back to school. With that being said, their safety comes first, always. I am happy that we at least have a plan set, so that when it is safe to return we are ready to go,” Martinez said.

When asked how this decision will affect plans to implement a hybrid learning model beginning Jan. 28, Superintendent Alban said there will be additional announcements made regarding plans for the hybrid model later this week.

The additional announcements are also expected to provide further guidance to teachers, all of whom were slated to return to school buildings on Jan. 13. For the time being, teachers are still being given access to their classrooms if they wish to use them to teach their virtual classes.

Other FCPS employees such as food service workers and bus drivers who had been let go during the fall’s “Reduction in Force” resumed employment on Jan. 1 in anticipation of FCPS transitioning into a hybrid learning model.

Alban said these employees will still return to work regardless of the step back from in-person learning.

“Food services continue as they have throughout the pandemic. Bus drivers have training and inspections that must be completed. We want them ready to go when we bring students back,” she said.

As of Monday, Frederick County was reporting 12,054 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 186 cases added within the past 24 hours. The positivity rate was 11.5 percent — a significant rise from the 5.9 percent positivity rate that was reported on Thanksgiving.

The only way small-group instruction and winter sports practices can resume is if the metrics begin to trend positively again.

“We need to see the metrics decrease from the highs we are experiencing right now,” Alban said.

Some research has suggested the risk of transmission in schools is low. Various counties across the U.S. and school systems in other countries have reopened fully with restrictions in place and seen success.

But Alban said guidance from the Maryland Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control suggests that such high metrics in a county can translate to a higher risk of transmission in schools.

“We kept small groups and sports going longer than most counties in the state ... in December we began to see significant increases in the number of positive cases and outbreaks in our schools. Obviously what is occurring in our county is mirrored in our schools,” she said. “We’d like to see the various metrics move downward before returning students to our buildings.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(39) comments

NewMarketParent

Let me just say once again, that we wouldn't need to rely on these specific metrics of the FCPS Board had the backbone and leadership to see the writing on the wall. This predictable event has happened and FCPS clearly missed an opportunity to lead. Its hard, but you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

jsklinelga

LJF0929 posted a very sensible comment last night: "A few more months of having to parent your school children at home will be worth the thousands of lives saved." It may not save thousands of lives but their is a high probability it could save 10, or 20 or a 100. With the high rate of infection currently above 11.5% is there anyone who doubts having the children in school will yield more cases And this in turn will produce more strain on our hospitals and healthcare workers, a greater strain on our economy and sadly, more deaths.

I am thankful for how President Trump handled this crisis. People who automatically hate anything Trump will recoil at this comment but he did a remarkable job. Total lockdowns would have had an incalculable toll in deaths and depression We must continue to walk the "pragmatic" tightrope For now sending the children back to school is not necessary. Let us hope as a community we can help those that this decision may cause hardships.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@JSK

How exactly in your own words has Trump "handled" the crisis? Ignoring the crisis is not "handling" the crisis, you understand that right?

The way Trump "handled" the crisis it's going to be a lot longer than a few more months of school at home....

How do feel when Trump holds his super spreader rallies like he did last night in Georgia? Are you thankful for Trump's super spreader rallies???

fredneck

99.998% survivable

PurplePickles aka L&M

@fredneck

Can we please just stop playing Russian Roulette with our lives??? How has that worked out so far...I have not seen any upside to your 99.998% survivable statement..unless you are trying to make a point I've not thought of?

Piedmontgardener

Jsk - We have seen and rejected Trump's actions. You may believe what you wish, but some of us are fairly economically conservative people who think Trump's response was the worse episode of leadership this country has ever seen. His venal actions towards wearing a mask should be the stuff of criminal charges. No sale.

fredneck

99.998% survivable

bosco

fredneck.....is that survivability number still accurate? It must be if it upsets the usual contrarians here.

Mask up and get the vaccine!

shiftless88

fredneck: your numbers are BS and there is the aspect of 360,000 deaths

parksgirl

https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/ohio-state-study-30-of-student-athletes-have-heart-damage-linked-to-covid-19

parksgirl

Survival is not a reasonable bar. You think this is such a smart reply hut it really shows how uninformed you are.

Piedmontgardener

Tell it to my friend's 54 year brother with 9 year old twins. Oh, wait, he died on the 31st. He can't read this because he's dead.

phydeaux994

But fredneck, what about the ones that survived it but have been seriously wounded by it? There have been a variety of debilitating after effects of having COVID-19.

gabrielshorn2013

fredneck, not sure where you are getting your numbers. If 360K have died, and the population is 350 million, then the virus has killed 0.103% of the population so far, leaving 99.897% alive...so far, and we're still in the thick of it. According to the CDC, the virus has infected 21 million people, and killed 360,000 so far, for a 1.71% mortality rate, and a survival rate of 98.29%, which is quire a bit different from your number. Check the CDC for the latest statistics.

LJF0929

[thumbup]

NewMarketParent

@jsklinelga

I have never read a more delusional statement in my life. I am in complete awe of its bootlickery.

louisianagirl71105

Bootlickery. Love it when new words are coined to express the delusions of sycophantic nitwits.

NewMarketParent

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

shiftless88

jsk; the metrics in our country are some of the worst in the world. If you think that is "success" then I guess we have different expectations of our leaders. I think they should, you know, lead. Like perhaps get everyone on board with wearing masks and social distancing while still encouraging people to get take-out food and such.

LJF0929

I am so confused. Please explain how you came to the conclusion that Trump handled this crisis remarkably. He referred to Covid-19 as a hoax until he, himself got it. Our country went months without any guidance or leadership on preventative measures and national plans. We are the laughing stock of the world with how poorly we treated this pandemic. So even if I liked Trump (never have, never will), I would have a very difficult time speaking the words that he handled the Covid crisis remarkably. Please divulge your thinking - I am all ears!

bosco

"Some research has suggested the risk of transmission in schools is low. Various counties across the U.S. and school systems in other countries have reopened fully with restrictions in place and seen success."

Our grandkids are in school in the midwest. Teachers and students are masked. If there is a suspected exposure, they do rigorous contact tracing and testing. One grandkid has been tested twice because on two separate occasions another student had a family member test postive. So far, it's working.

Follow the science and trace the exposures.

Dwasserba

I can't know the circumstances of your grandkids, but knowing the tightknit generations-of-intermarriage-and-acquaintance culture of a county in PA where in person school opened in the fall, it's just not the same here. People personally know who "has it," where they got it, how they are doing, who they are related to, where they work.Teenagers went to FLA on spring break. Not a usual thing. What an opportunity. Brought it back. Oh no. Testing "everyone you came in contact with" was done. There is no big mall or big-anything to infect strangers. PS What's a stranger? Oh right. A stranger caused this. Well, you're home now. How was your trip?

bosco

Dwasserba, I'm simply reporting our family's experience with full time in person education. The usual contrarians will try to turn it into a personal attack on me, but that's what is expected of basement dwellers. I just use my dual optical scanners to scroll on by. [tongue][tongue]

phydeaux994

bosco, stop with the “poor me” act, “I’m the victim”. You have been personally attacking commenters on the FNP Opinion Forum for 5+ years. And I don’t have to “keep track”, it’s stored in my memory and in the archives of the FNP. Just type “bosco Frederick News Post” into your browser and read them for yourself. And yes, I have noticed how hard you are trying to be “nice” lately. I ain’t buyin’ it.

bosco

Fido, that's precious coming from you - one of the Troll Kings here. You repeatedly go after others with whom you disagree - as demonstrated by your post when I was replying to dwasserba. You constantly project your own prejudices on others and then try to hide behind "peace" in your posts. You can dish it out but not take it.

You are just another sad little basement dweller with no life and jealous of anyone who doesn't fit your paradigm of what they should be - including a self-made conservative Black man who supports law and order and who has zero tolerance for thugs and gangstas. Can't stand that, can you?

KMA

PurplePickles aka L&M

@Stimpy

You are being sarcastic with this statement correct: Follow the science and trace the exposures.

your past posts do not indicate that you understand one thing about science or facts, so we are supposed to believe you are understand them now?

Or is this just another fruitcake post of yours not meant to be taken seriously?

If you want us to take you seriously where is your evidence that backs up anything you have just asserted???

NewMarketParent

@PurplePickles

Reek has shown a propensity to half-quote to provide cover for half-lies.

Children (I am grouping youngest in with oldest) seem to be very contagious and are the least equipped to follow all of the protocols that we need to be in place. They tend to survive the virus with the lowest mortality rates and thank goodness for that. That said, children infect adults and it is hard to imagine putting children into school for 7+ hours a day during the winter and not pass this virus around. You know that parents will darn well send their infected children into school (dosed up). It has happened before and will again with horrendous consequences.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@NMP

Stimpy is once again telling lies like they are the truth and he does that deliberately on purpose, doesn't he remind you of someone ? Think orange...

If you have NetFlix make sure you watch Death to 2020.....

fredneck

BINGO!

LJF0929

Out of curiosity, how large is the school district in which your grandchildren attend? What are their class sizes? How rural is their district? How crowded are their cities? Next line of questioning is regarding their hospitals - when there is an outbreak, the midwest has proven that their hospitals simply cannot handle masses and have struggled to provide care. That's a slippery slope in my opinion. Comparing FCPS to the midwest likely proves many more differences than similarities!

DickD

Sports should never have been started until we had vaccinations. It was always high risk and is not a surprise. Probably sports wouldn't have been started if it wasn't for the parents.

Arbit

Agree!

vodalone

It's not the actual participation in sports that causes spread, it's the mingling before and after practice/games that cause the spread. That unnecessary mingling is not being restricted or controlled enough by the adults in charge. I've read several case studies and all point to not the actual participation in most outdoor sports, but the associated clubhouse and mingling that causes spread of the virus.

LJF0929

If anyone has difficulty understanding why keeping children and school staff home and safe is the best call should check out some of these pictures: https://www.usatoday.com/picture-gallery/news/2020/11/24/heartbreaking-look-inside-covid-19-hospital-units/6404857002/

Until you lose a loved one to Covid - I guess you cannot begin to imagine the impact of carriers walking around in our communities. Little children may not get sick and die, but they certainly carry COVID and expose others. A few more months of having to parent your school children at home will be worth the thousands of lives saved. We owe it to nurses and doctors fighting this plague hourly to be educated, sensible citizens and lay low without complaint for a little while longer. Look at Australia and New Zealand. Nobody there thought Covid was fake or "just a flu" and they are on the other side of this beast as we continue to lose people because uninformed, ignorant people believe they have a right to disregard mandates. We have got to stick together a few more months and we will begin to see the light - but until then, we don't want to lose any more loved ones. It can happen in 3 days. Perfectly healthy 65 year old on Monday and in a body bag on Thursday. Take it seriously. Have some empathy and be thankful that it hasn't taken one of your loved ones because if it has, you would want everyone staying home until its over.

PurplePickles aka L&M

And yet bars and restaurants are doing a bang up job of spreading the virus and no one is complaining about them being open???? How about the air travel over the holidays, no one complained that the airports were open? What about how we have relaxed our Covid vigilance policies in stores, churches, at home etc...no one is complaining about that??? Our priorities are so messed up in this country, Covid has made that painfully obvious.

I agree with your post that we really have no logical choice but to keep the schools closed but logical people aren't the ones you need to be talking too....stick together for a few more months..lol We haven't stuck together so far....

If we even cared what stick together meant and entailed schools would not still be closed...your words are for those of us who are already sticking together, the others still think Covid is a hoax and so as long as we have those illogical people among us...I think it's going to be much longer than a few months.......

Dwasserba

I think there are people right along who do not agree with restaurants and certainly not bars being open, who are imagining what it's like, who've heard things, who have not sat outside or in, know people who do, and avoid them. If you offer it, they will come. To expect people whose response is to just quietly disappear, to complain about others not being similarly socially inactive to the nth degree, doesn't figure. Nobody notices we're not at airports or church. I need better sneakers for a recovering ankle/leg injury, I'm not at the Mall. But my friend "ran in" just for a birthday card and wished it had been less trafficked, oh well. Complain to whom. Anyone who almost never gets out knows the lifestyle sucks. As for "almost," forgive me, I get physical therapy and see doctors. I'll even be getting an overdue mammogram now that I can stand up. Woo hoo People tell you where they went when they come back. I'm complaining. Oh! I feel so much better.

NewMarketParent

I hate the idea of churches, schools, bars, airports and restaurants being open right now, but we have collectively sunk to the point of "protect your neck". So, we have tried to minimize our risk and so far despite a few scares, have managed to not get infected nor infect anyone else. The best we can do without a coordinated federal response is deal with the landscape in front of us. My guestimate right now is that once we get competent federal leadership, we will get a good vaccination plan in place and most will be vaccinated in time for next Fall. If we are lucky, we might be able to enjoy a summer of not having to worry about infecting/killing our friends/family. We will probably need about a solid year to return to normal providing that there are no major disruptions to either the logistics chain nor sourcing of vaccine components.

vodalone

Restaurants and bars require you to obviously take off your mask when you eat and drink, this is the most vulnerable time.

Covid vigilance policies at home? No way in the world you can enforce that, so not sure what you mean by "at home".

If you were to close indoor dining at restaurants and bars, ensure those businesses get prioritized in government assistance it would cut the infections greatly. During the summer when everyone was outside numbers were dropping everyday.

PurplePickles aka L&M

@Vodalone

I guess I should have said we have become relaxed in our personal responsibilities towards Covid when I was referring to Covid vigilance policies at home. Because doesn't vigilance first start with the individual, the individual must take responsibility first before responsibility can be expected from other people.

No the government cannot and should not need to enforce personal responsibility if the government would itself model responsibility...but you know the government right now and it isn't what I would call being a responsible person.

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