CAMBRIDGE — Members of the Dorchester County Republican Central Committee urged the Board of Education on March 18 to reopen local public schools with full-time, in-person teaching.
The schools have been either closed or teaching in-person on a partial basis since last March, when the COVID-19 virus hit Maryland. While some students have adjusted to learning at home or being in schools some days, others have seen their grades or even their mental health affected by not being in classes.
Parents were inside during the meeting, and outside in the parking lot, displaying signs in support of reopening.
Several spoke to the board members, sharing details of how their children have struggled with online learning, and of the challenges the parents have faced, as many are faced with the dilemma of have children at home, while having to work.
“Online learning has been inadequate,” Angela Meekins said, as she told board members that children have lost basic aspects of their education in the current system.
A different view came from President of Dorchester Educators Katie Holbrook, who spoke in support of the Board of Education’s decisions over the last year, which she called “a whirlwind” for the school system.
Vice Chairman of the Republican Central Committee Michael Dodd was next at the podium. “I would ask you this evening to put the children of our community first, as opposed to the teachers’ union, which puts the teachers first. Your obligation is to the children, it’s not to the teachers” or scientific or governmental organizations, he said.
Mr. Dodd said the Center for Disease Control’s six-foot social distancing rule, cited by the Board of Education for its need to reopen on a limited basis to maintain proper spacing, “is a fundamental reason, all of a sudden, parents are told that there isn’t enough room in school for a child.”
Mr. Dodd said the World Health Organization recommends a distance of three feet, calling into question the need for the current plan. “This is dogma, posing as science,” he said, noting an extensive study in Massachusetts that found no difference in virus transmission in three- or six-foot distancing.
The demonstration and presentations came as the state’s vaccination efforts picked up speed. Also on Thursday, Governor Larry Hogan announced that the state would begin Phase 2 vaccinations on March 23. The governor has also called on county school boards to fully open their facilities.
“Despite demands from the public, the Dorchester County Board of Education tonight adjourned without a yes/no vote to fully reopen schools for those families who want to send their children full time,” the Central Committee wrote online later that evening. “A sad day for our children.”
Other districts in the region have also addressed progress in the pandemic, with mixed results.
The Fairfax County, Va. Board of Education announced on March 16 that students will return to school full time in the fall and they will reduce social distancing from six to three feet. “Excellent move. Dorchester, we’re counting on you to be next!” an online statement from the Central Committee said.
However, in Maryland’s Washington County, Board of Education members voted 4-3 on March 16 not to fully open.