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Dorchester County Public Schools

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Superintendent's Press Release

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An Open Letter to the Dorchester County Public Schools Community - 4-28-2021

28 April 2021

An Open Letter to the Dorchester County Public Schools Community

Good afternoon Dorchester County Public Schools Community,

As we come up to the end of April and the beginning of a special time for our Seniors, I wanted to talk to you about some of the steps we unfortunately have had to take recently, as well as look ahead.  Mace’s Lane Middle School is now in its third week of its building closure.  This week we also had to close the building at North Dorchester Middle School to students, as well as two classrooms at Choptank Elementary School due to COVID.

These are the facts:  Dorchester County’s COVID case rate is, at present, the highest in Maryland, just above Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  Our case rate is over twice that of our nearest neighbors of Talbot, Caroline and Wicomico. Our positivity rate has been climbing the entire month of April while Maryland as a whole has remained mostly steady, even declining some.  These facts present challenges for Dorchester County that other counties do not face and require us to take steps that other counties do not need to take.  We are focused on keeping our schools open, allowing all our athletic teams to participate in their games, matches, and meets, and particularly right now, ensuring all of the senior graduation events and year end individual school culmination events take place.

This pandemic is not over in Dorchester County, and pretending it is does not make it so.  All it does is jeopardize the events our Seniors, their families, and all of us so much want to happen, especially graduation.  The Executive Team and I have heard you; we know that many of you want each high school to have one graduation ceremony rather than two, and that possibility could be a reality.  We too, prefer to have one graduation ceremony per school.  However, for this to happen we must act responsibly as county citizens and improve our COVID numbers.  Our case rate, as it now stands, will not allow us to have that number of people together in one place safely.  The Class of 2021 needs to be able to look back upon its graduation as a happy time, not as a super spreader event.

Bear in mind, too, whether there are one or two graduation ceremonies at each school, we want every Senior to be able to attend and celebrate with their classmates.  However, any student or family member who tests positive in the days leading up to graduation, or are close contacts and need to quarantine, will not be able to attend graduation.  This would devastate me and obviously the families involved.

What all this tells us is that everyone needs to be careful, very careful, over the next few weeks.   We do not want a spring athlete to miss their graduation because of a team COVID exposure just a few days before graduation.  We do not want a group of friends missing their graduation because of a make-shift prom two weekends before graduation.

If we, as a county, continue on our present path, the goal of a single graduation ceremony at both high schools will not take place.  I am not advocating placing your family in a bubble, I am not advocating going back to complete virtual learning.  But everyone needs to pull back on large gatherings and events, public and private, that are not socially-distanced and mask-less.  We need to put the brakes on COVID in Dorchester County and reduce our case and positivity rates.

We will be assessing the COVID situation closer to graduation and I will announce in my Wednesday, May 19 update whether graduations will need to be held in two shifts to limit numbers or whether Dorchester County’s COVID figures have improved enough to allow schools to have just one graduation ceremony safely.  Help us keep COVID out of our schools so we can keep them open and help us make the send-off of the Class of 2021 memorable for all the right reasons.

Next week, if the school your child attends is having COVID issues, we will alert you and the school professionals through School Messenger Friday evening between 6 and 8pm.  Further communication will occur Sunday evening on the status of the school in question between 6-8pm.  If no communication takes place Friday or Sunday, your school will remain open for in-person learning for that week.

We recognize what a difficult school year this has been. We will be offering extended Summer Academies to further support students.  Summer Academies for Middle and High Schools begin on June 21 and run in two four-week sessions; Elementary Summer Academy starts July 12 for one five-week session.  Further information about the Summer Academies will be coming from your child’s school in the near future.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and do what you can to help Dorchester County’s COVID numbers be reduced so EVERYONE is SAFE.

W. David Bromwell

Superintendent

Dorchester County Public Schools