THE HUB - Feature Article

  • All Means ALL, Especially in This COVID-19 Fight

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 12/3/2020

    Along the COVID-19 pandemic road we have traveled over the last eight months, there have been an untold number of course changes and uncertainties.


    What group of people is the most susceptible to catch the virus? What are the appropriate precautions we should take? Who should get tested? What is the contagious period? Who should be quarantined, and for how long?


    Our school system has relied on leaders like Gov. Larry Hogan and County Executive Steuart Pittman to establish the restrictive and preventative measures they believe will best serve our state and county. We have relied on health experts – most notably Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman and his talented and tireless team – to provide us with the most up-to-date advice as we have encountered varied twists and turns.


    We have taken what they have provided and attempted to answer the myriad questions we have had and that have been posed by the many parts that comprise our school community.


    Chief among them: When is it safe to open our school buildings? How do we best address the needs of all our students as we do so? What about athletics and other extracurricular activities that are so crucial to the development of children? How do we ensure that we don’t just open schools, but keep them open?


    One of the constants of this journey is this: Everyone is frustrated and wants our students and staff back in our classrooms as soon as possible. Our Board of Education and I are right at the top of that list.


    I completely understand and respect the sentiments of those who would have reopened all our schools fully by now. I don’t believe for one second that they are careless or that they don’t have the best interests of our children at heart. They do.


    I believe, however, that as we plan the path forward, we must continue to exercise caution and prudence above everything else. We must look at the science, and the fact is that the key indicator our Department of Health has used to ascertain COVID-19’s impact on our community shows things aren’t getting better.


    On Oct. 7, the day our Board voted to approve full implementation of the hybrid reopening plan about a month later, the case incidence rate – a measure of the average number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents over a seven-day period – was 9.5. Under the metrics Dr. Kalyanaraman and his team created, that put us on the line between hybrid and virtual instruction. By Nov. 4, the rate had risen to 15.1, just above the metric threshold for virtual learning. That night, the Board voted to maintain virtual learning until the second semester. On Nov. 16, the day hybrid learning was supposed to start, the case rate was 28.2. Two days later, it was 32.9.


    We are on a sharp incline on this roller-coaster ride. So, how do we crest the peak? How do we, to use an oft-spoken phrase, bend the curve so the numbers decline to the point where students can sit at desks in front of teachers in classrooms across our county?
    We must rely on a three-word phrase we utilize daily in our school system: All Means All.
    All of us must wear masks, wash our hands often, and watch our distance. All of us must resist the urge to gather in large groups, be that for “homecoming” photos in lieu of dances being missed by students, for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, or for other special occasions.


    The fact is that this virus doesn’t care what your viewpoint is. It has wrecked asunder all our lives for the last eight months. It continues to attack our community, and we must fight back – together.


    In this fight, if all doesn’t mean ALL we’ll never reopen classrooms, where the buzz of student learning and laughter and the magic that teachers create permeates our schoolhouses every day.


    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@aacps.org.

    Comments (-1)