The inception of what is hoped to be a full school year for students and teachers in Anne Arundel County in their brick and mortar schools starts today. A lot is riding on the endeavor, and, while many expect hiccups along the way, they are hoping for a successful academic year.
“The road we have all travelled together has been rocky to say the least,” said Anne Arundel County School’s Superintendent George Arlotto in an official welcome back message posted to social media a few days ago. “This year will undoubtedly have its share of bumps as well.”
Arlotto’s message was upbeat, yet he cautioned listeners that they could expect the year to be challenging too, as the pandemic has not yet fully run its course.
"We will unquestionably have to adjust as we traverse the school year,” he said.
The mother of three Severn public school students echoed the superintendent’s sentiments in an interview earlier this week, Kelli Higley, who has two daughters in middle school and a son in elementary school, said she will be taking the new semester day-by-day.
“The parents I talk to, it’s definitely one-part excited to go back, but there’s also a few among us concerned about when our kid is going to be sent home,” she said. “It’s not if-it’s when.”
Higley said the county’s public schools have said they will send children home to quarantine for ten days if they have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus by being within three feet of another student who has tested positive.
“I’d be very surprised if every one of my kids went through the whole year without getting sent home,” she said.
Her youngest, an eight-year-old son, already came down with the virus a couple weeks back she said. But it only manifested as something similar to a slight cold.
“Had it not been the season of COVID I would have kind of ignored it as a little kid being sick,” she noted.
Arlotto said the school district can’t make this school year a success without the help of school families. The superintendent indicated the families will have to share in the sacrifice of making the next semesters successful for kids, which will require “grace, patience and flexibility.”
“We need your help,” Arlotto emphasized.
He also noted there may be alterations in the school bus schedules because of the nation-wide school bus driver shortage that has impacted the county. He encouraged families to get their students comfortable with wearing their masks for the full school day. He also asked for patience with teachers, who are adapting too.
Despite the challenges, or maybe because of them, the new school year that arrived today has the potential to be as rewarding or even more rewarding than past years. Students will have the privilege of learning in-person once again for a full academic year. It is something that has been denied them since 2019.
They can develop academically and socially once again, as parents and administrators carefully look to guard them from the virus.
Today is hopefully the start of a journey towards normalcy, during an era that has seen many of our lives turned upside down. The school system will be treading carefully, but with real hope toward 2022.
“I’m a lot more excited about school. I’m looking forward to my kids having social interaction,” Higley said. “Even with a mask they can talk to them (fellow students) at lunch, look them in the eye. For them to grow up the way I want, they need to have those interactions.”