HCPSS Back to School Updates

Sun, 08/29/2021 - 2:51pm

From the HCPSS:

As students, staff and families prepare for the first day of school, below are additional updates that families are encouraged to review. 

Self-Health Checks
All families are reminded to perform COVID-19 health checks each day before sending students to school. Students may not come to school if they exhibit symptoms associated with COVID-19 or any communicable disease.

Bus Schedules
All families of students who plan to ride the bus to and from school should recheck the HCPSS Bus Locator as some routes and schedules have been adjusted due to driver vacancies and other factors impacting bus transportation this year.

General questions regarding transportation should be emailed to transportation@hcpss.org. For more urgent matters, such as a late or missing bus, please call HCPSS Transportation at 410-313-6732.

Mask Requirements
Masks are required in all HCPSS buildings for all students, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks also will be required while on school buses. Masks will not be required for any students or staff while eating/drinking indoors. Masks will not be required outdoors, however, they are recommended for unvaccinated individuals.

Masks should have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric that completely cover the nose and mouth. Please review the CDC Guide to Masks.

Please note, if a student has a medical condition that prohibits the wearing of a mask, that student's parent/guardian will need to submit a physician letter to the school nurse or health assistant.

Quarantining Procedures
Contact tracing is handled by the Howard County Health Department (HCHD), with support from and in coordination with the HCPSS Office of Health Services. Only unvaccinated students and adults who are identified as close contacts must quarantine. Vaccinated students and staff will not be required to quarantine unless they receive a positive test or are displaying symptoms, however, they will be expected to monitor their symptoms closely for the 14 days.

Details on quarantining requirements for unvaccinated students and staff can be found online.

Social Distancing
As families attended open houses and orientations at their child’s school, questions arose related to social distancing. The Maryland State Department of Education is requiring schools to be open for in-person instruction for all students for a minimum of 180 days in the 2021-2022 school year. This results in approximately 58,000 students returning to Howard County school buildings.

The expectation is for schools to return to normalized instruction which includes classroom desk arrangements that enable whole group instruction, small group instruction, group work, and independent rotations. Due to the number of students and staff in the building each day, social distancing is not a feasible mitigation effort.

In alignment with CDC recommendations that when one mitigation can’t be followed, others are emphasized, HCPSS has placed even greater emphasis on strategies such as universal masking and proper mask-wearing, required vaccinations or weekly testing for all staff, regular hand washing, and access to hand sanitizer, opportunities for outdoor eating and other cafeteria protocols, and enhanced air filtration efforts. 

Cafeteria Plexiglass
Outdoor seating is available at all schools with additional precautions within each school. Students will not have to wear masks when eating or drinking, or while outdoors, however, masks are required when not seated or eating in the cafeteria. Please visit the HCPSS website for additional information regarding precautionary measures in our schools during lunch shifts.