Coronavirus forces county schools to shut their doors

by Mar 18, 2020

 

…food banks such as End Hunger have been “stepping up and helping out and filling in some of the gaps.”
–Daniel Curry, Calvert County Superintendent of Schools

Mar 18, 2020
At the board of education meeting on Thursday, Calvert County Superintendent of Schools Daniel Curry said he hoped he wouldn’t have to close schools due to the COVID-19 virus but that things “were changing hour by hour.”
And a few hours later, the decision was made by State School Superintendent Karen Salmon to close all schools statewide for at least the next two weeks.
“It sure did change,” Superintendent of Schools Daniel J. Curry said of the decision, which came following a statewide conference call with superintendents.
“But I wasn’t necessarily surprised because we didn’t really know what to expect,” he said. “Certainly all school superintendents had heard from some citizens that wondered why we weren’t [closed], and I think it is hard to make such a move in one school district all alone when you haven’t even had one reported case. But in the end, I support the move, and it’s a good idea.”
The move affects 15,463 students at 24 schools but does not reflect Pre-K students. “We are emphasizing with our staff that the purpose is not that we have germs all over the school, and we need to disinfect because that’s true every day at school. You always have that,” Curry said. “The issue is social distancing and slowing down the progress of the coronavirus, and we’re doing that by removing opportunities for large groups of people to get together.”
Maryland’s were among the first schools in the country to close. Since then, 37states have moved to cancel classes.
Curry said he’s hoping the two-week closure will be plenty.
“That certainly would be our hope,” he said. “Best case scenario is that we would be back to school on March 30. That would be great. That would be our hope.”
Regarding any new policies, once schools reopen, Curry said, “We’ll see” but added the district would be working closely with the health department.
“We will still count on a close collaboration with the health department, and we will no doubt be encouraging hand washing and those typical kinds of issues,” he said. “The big thing I’m communicating with the staff is we’re not closing schools to clean schools; we’re closing schools to disperse the population, so everybody’s not on top of each other for two weeks, and hopefully it will slow down the spread.”
Calvert County students are scheduled to go on spring break April 8-13, and then school is scheduled to close on June 11.
“We have communicated with staff that you should consider this your spring break because we will be planning on making these days up, and the first [free days] to go will be spring break,” he said. “And the rest [of the days that need to be made up] added to the end of the year unless the state extends some dispensation and a change in the rules for makeups [days] because of the special circumstances.”
Curry also clarified the fact that 12-month employees must stay in their respective schools during the two weeks.
“All 12-month employees are expected to work, but we’re also giving them liberal leave,” he said. “No one is forced to stay in the building, but we have to keep in mind that the primary focus of this is social distancing. Almost all of our building service workers are 12 month [employees], so they’re all going to be cleaning.”
Curry also added that principals and other administrators and at least one secretary at each school are 12-month employees. There are no teachers that fall in that category.
Curry said the outpouring of support from the community regarding food for students who need it has been enormous.
“We have been inundated with calls from community organizations and churches wanting to be sure that children who need food can get food, so it is certainly encouraging to know that the community is mindful of ‘How can we help?’” he said. “At this point, we are developing a plan for making food available for those children who may need it. There are many children who count on breakfast and lunch every day during the school year and also many who receive backpacks to take home full of food provided by local organizations and churches to help them over the weekend.”
On Monday, Curry said the board has been purchasing pre-packaged meals and said officials in charge of school lunch programs have stated that distribution may only take place in zones that have been identified as high poverty.
Curry said the county has three specific zones; in the White Sands and Chesapeake Ranch Estates communities in Lusby and in Prince Frederick, where food will be distributed.
Curry also said the county will be doing drive-up food distribution, but added there are many regulations where that is involved, such as the students must be present, and it can only be done daily. He also added that food banks such as End Hunger have been “stepping up and helping out and filling in some of the gaps.”
Curry said he hopes to have plans are in place to start providing food for those who need it by Wednesday.
Calvert Recorder
By MICHAEL REID mreid@somdnews.com Twitter: @CalRecMICHAEL