CHESTERTOWN — While Kent County Public Schools has opted to start classes this fall with virtual learning, private schools here plan to bring students back to campus.
The Kent County Board of Education unanimously approved the public school system's plan to continue with distance learning through early November for elementary and middle schoolers. Kent County High School's entire first semester, running through Jan. 28, will be digital.
Kent School, Radcliffe Creek School and Friendship Montessori School all have announced plans to teach students in-person. Chestertown Christian Academy expects to release its plans for the fall to parents later this week.
A news release from Kent School points to recently issued guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraging schools to open.
According to a CNN report, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the leading face of the federal government's COVID-19 response team, spoke on Monday, Aug. 3 about how the "default position" should be to reopen schools. He reportedly said students need the "psychological and nutritional benefits of being in school."
"The primary consideration should always be the safety, the health of the welfare of the children, as well as the teachers and the secondary effects for spreading (to) the parents and other family members," CNN quoted Fauci as saying.
Fauci also said that not all schools can re-open, notably those in COVID-19 hotspots.
Located on a waterfront campus just outside Chestertown, Kent School hosts students from pre-school through eighth grade.
According to a news release, Kent School plans for students to return to campus Sept. 8. Children will stay together in small grade-level cohorts, the release states.
"The layers of mitigation utilized for a safe return to campus will include face coverings for parts of the day, distanced desks, frequent hand-washing and sanitizer stations," the Kent School release states.
Kent School reportedly has taken steps to ensure the safety of its campus: bathrooms refitted with touch-less fixtures, upgraded air filters and more. Outdoor spaces also will be utilized on the campus for lessons.
“We believe that being together as safely as possible is the best option for the well being of our students, and nothing can replace the robust interactions that happen daily in the classroom. Although we live in a changing time, the mission of Kent School remains unchanged — to guide our students in realizing their potential for academic, artistic, athletic and moral excellence in a family-oriented and student-centered environment which fosters the growth of honorable, responsible citizens for our country and our diverse world,” said Head of school Nancy Mugele in a statement.
Radcliffe Creek School in Chestertown, serving pre-schoolers through students 14 years old, plans to open its doors on Aug. 26, marking its 25th year helping those who may have difficulties in one or more learning areas.
"Mandated protocols and guidelines for social distancing will limit the number of students we can welcome through our doors this year. Things may look a bit different with social distancing measures in place. What will not be changing is the dynamic educational environment that has guided our mission for the last 25 years," a news release from Radcliffe Creek School states.
Kent and Radcliffe Creek schools plan to offer virtual learning for those families not ready to send their children back to classrooms.
Friendship Montessori School in Worton serves children ages 2 to 5. When doors open there this fall for in-person learning, it will mark the school's 29th year.
According to a news release from the school, parents and staff will sign a "Community Commitment" to follow safety precautions both at the school and away from it. Teachers will work with students on proper distancing, hand-washing, sneeze control and other safety measures, all of which are already part of the Montessori lessons.
"The children feel empowered by taking care of themselves and helping others. The teachers will be closely monitoring the children’s activities, and disinfecting materials and furniture throughout the day as needed," the release states. "We will also provide our students with a warm welcome, a chance to engage with others while exploring a rich variety of materials, and loving interactions with teachers while we celebrate the joy of learning each day."
The Gunston School in Centreville, serving high school students, plans a phased-in approach to reopening.
According to a news release, ninth graders will be the first to return to campus this fall, while the remaining students will begin with distance learning. As the more students are able to be brought back to campus, the return of 12th graders will be the next priority "given their seniority and college guidance needs."
The goal is to have all students back on campus by the end of the first quarter, the release states.
“By starting with 25% of the student body on campus, as well as smaller numbers of faculty, the school has the opportunity to integrate a complex set of new health, screening, and safety policies with lower campus density,” said Head of School John Lewis in a statement. “New 9th grade students possess the greatest need for direct connection with their teachers and classmates, and they are easier to cohort, given their schedules.”