ELKTON — More than 1,600 Cecil County Public Schools staff members have received at least the first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses. The vaccinations, along with Gov. Larry Hogan lifting some COVID restrictions, have led to questions about whether CCPS will expand its reopening to four days per week of in-person classes for all students.
Many teachers, however, have mixed feelings about the possibility of more in-person classes.
Lori Hrinko, the Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association (CCCTA) president, said more face-to-face courses would make social distancing impossible.
A survey distributed by the CCCTA to teachers Wednesday morning received 1,048 responses by that evening’s school board meeting, and the response was mixed — 42 percent felt safe or very safe about expanding the opening, but 58 percent responded that they felt only partially safe or not safe at all, with 24 percent in the latter group.
“Don’t take this as if we do not love being at schools with our kids,” Hrinko said. “Nothing makes us happier than being with the kids — that is why we’re there, and that’s why we’ve chosen to do what we do, but the concern is doing it safely.”
Some teachers are worried that students traveling over spring break and Easter could create great risk of infection if class sizes increase. Others worry about the new COVID-19 variants. Teachers are also concerned about the effectiveness of hybrid learning, saying that students who remain fully online may be overlooked if more students attend in-person classes.
“I will have 16 students in the classroom, but still have to teach three virtually,” said Hrinko, quoting a teacher’s response to the survey. “It is hard to do that with a classroom of 5-year-olds who need my undivided attention. This is not a safety issue for me, but it is a mental health issue.”
Board President William Malesh said that the board shares the CCCTA’s emphasizing the collaborative relationship with the board and union.
Associate Superintendent for Administration Services Robert Buckley said out of the 2,264 staff who were offered the vaccine, 74.4 percent wanted to receive it.
Buckley said the district worked with the Cecil County Health Department to ensure bus drivers and other contractors who interact with students directly were also given the vaccine.
CCPS has also seen 906 total staff absences from COVID-related incidents, 745 of which required contact tracing.
Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson emphasized the relatively low number of actual cases in CCPS, noting that no staff members are currently quarantined for a positive COVID test result.
“It’s important for the board and the public to understand that right now, we simply aren’t seeing cases,” Lawson said. “And is it a function of safety protocols? Is it a function of vaccines? It’s probably a combination of everything. I think over the last year, the school system has shown that we do not have an appetite for watching our students or our staff gets sick.”
The board also announced that former Cecil County School Board member Bill Manlove passed away on Wednesday.
“He loved working with and for the kids,” Hrinko said during County Executive Danielle Hornberger’s State of the County address on Thursday. “His commitment and dedication to Cecil County was always unwavering, and his impact really is measurable.”