Coronavirus is moving through Prince George’s County “among people who are not particularly ill or showing symptoms,” according to Prince George’s County Health, Human Services, and Education Deputy Chief and pediatrician Dr. George Askew. Thursday, county officials said residents should take immediate precautions to limit social contact and prepare for serious disruptions to their daily lives.
“The best way to address it is through non-pharmaceutical intervention; social distancing…increased levels of social distancing,” said Askew. “Close down events where large crowds might be. Close down smaller events even.”
Several major county institutions have shut down. The Prince George’s County Courthouse is closed to the public until April 6, 2020. No grand juries or petit juries will be assembled during this time. Prince George’s County Memorial Library System is suspending all programs and will be closed until further notice. And all schools in Maryland are shuttered through at least March 27.
Editor’s note: The coronavirus pandemic is a quickly-developing story about a disease no one has encountered before. Route 1 Reporter lacks the resources to provide wall-to-wall breaking news coverage of these rapidly unfolding events. Please heed the official announcements of local, state, and federal health and emergency management agencies for the most up-to-date information and guidance.
Askew’s comments came during a telephone town hall held March 12, 2020, to update parents about Prince George’s County Public Schools’ response to the coronavirus pandemic. The call was attended by more than 30,000 callers, according to county officials. Prince George’s County’s school system serves 136,000 students.
Originally, the call was scheduled to discuss a temporary closure of Eleanor Roosevelt High School and College Park Academy for cleaning. But then Maryland’s first suspected person-to-person transmission of a novel coronavirus infection was reported in Prince George’s County. After Gov. Larry Hogan announced earlier on March 12 that all schools in Maryland will be shut down until Between March 16 and March 27, school officials had to address community concerns about the looming shutdown. The last day of classes is Friday, March 13, 2020.
The big takeaway from the call: Schools are closed for at least two weeks, and officials are “exploring” – perhaps the word of the night – all options to deal with knock-on effects from the closure and a widening pandemic.
Is two weeks enough?
During the call, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson, was asked if the school closure would be extended. Goldson replied that County officials and state officials would be continually assessing the situation based on the latest info. If circumstances dictate schools should remain closed, Goldson indicated they were prepared to do that.
Homework, Teacher Pay, Digital Divide
Goldson said teachers have been instructed to send students home with paper-based homework to complete. Goldson said teachers would be paid as normal during the closure, and said teachers should be available to answer questions by email from students.
In response to a question about internet-based distance learning tools, Goldson noted they cannot guarantee each student has access to the necessary technology at their homes.
On the call, school system officials were exploring options to provide school lunches to students at home. Before that can happen, Goldson said they needed regulatory approval from state and federal authorities to serve school lunches outside of the schools themselves. There are also logistical challenges to rolling out a school-lunch delivery program.
Make up days
Responding to a question from a caller, Goldson said school officials were exploring several options to make up lost educational time. One option she mentioned: extending school days.
Goldson also hoped state officials might grant school districts waivers this year allowing them to teach less than the required hours of instruction.
Goldson also asked the business community for help with meal distribution during the closure, and said there is a possible need for volunteers.
Charter lottery, SAT delays
School officials are also exploring options to extend lottery school registration process. A SAT test to be administered this coming Saturday will be rescheduled.
Editor’s note: Route 1 Reporter only uses of “doctor” and “dr.” for individuals trained to practice medicine, unless used in a direct quote. Route 1 Reporter notes this element of style only because Prince George’s County Public Schools Chief Monica Goldson is frequently referred to as Doctor Goldson.