Queen Anne’s County has been leading the news cycles in Maryland. Local parents haven’t had a chance to relax and seek stability and sanity ever since the Kent Island Patriots – a group of patriotic parents and citizens stopped the former Superintendent’s initiative in public schools to promote “Students Talking About Race”.
After heated election in 2020 and selection of the new Superintendent, Dr. Patricia Saelens, it appeared that the County’s parents could take a break and enjoy getting their children back to schools and their sports activities.
Dr. Saelens has done so much within the short period of time – from reopening schools, promoting teachers and administrators, organizing smooth reopening and summer learning for all children and joyfully working with the Board of Education on policies, issues and budget items.
And just when the things seemed to be getting back to normal – at the beginning of August, Dr. Saelens issued a letter touching on “masking” and the leery parents raised their fears of going backwards instead of forward – letting children breathe freely and focusing on learning.
During the public Board of Education’s meeting, in the first week of August 2021, the parents came in numbers to express their concern with prolong masking. Their concerns fell on the deaf ear and Dr. Saelens, without giving the Board of Eduation a chance to vote on the issue, decided to publish the second letter based on her sole decision and following the State of Maryland positivity rate in Queen Anne’s County and Queen Anne’s County Health Departments guidelines.
As of August 16, 2021 Queen Anne’s County Positivity rate is 7.51% and hospitalization in the entire county is 5.
COVID-19 Summary for Queen Anne’s County
Tested positive March 2021: 281
Tested positive April 2021: 341
Tested positive May 2021: 133
Tested positive June 2021: 27
Tested positive July 2021: 71
Tested positive August 2021: 163
Tested positive since March 2020: 4,410
Currently hospitalized: 5
Total hospitalized since March: 189
Total deaths: 49
Positivity % QAC: 7.51
Cases per 100K QAC: 17.58
*Percentage of QAC residents fully vaccinated: 53.86%
*Percentage of QAC residents vaccinated: 58.318% (1st dose)
*Total QAC residents with 1st dose: 29,381
*Number includes retail pharmacies, mass vaccination site and any resident not vaccinated by QAC Health Dept.
For additional statistics visit coronavirus.maryland.gov
The problem is with “the positivity” rate. This rate includes ALL residents and not public school children. It is quite plausible to have all adults infected with Covid in the amount of 7.51% and zero children but according to Dr. Saelens, that would be sufficient to mask all kids even if zero of them had covid in the entire school system.
This possibility even plausible is not true as there are students who have tested positive for Covid and have been diagnosed with Delta variant but the number is not 7.51%.
Queen Anne’s County public Schools have approximately 7700 students and 7.51% positivity rate would mean that 578 students have been infected by Covid which is not the case.
The School Board will have an opportunity to debate this policy on their regularly scheduled August 18th meeting. The parents again stepped forward with disapproval of this unilateral decision exceeding the authority of the school Superintendent.
The issues we see across the state is that even the best intended superintendents lack knowledge and understanding of where their authority ends.
It appears that the damage control needs to be focused on the Superintendent education and clearly misguided understanding of their authority.
Meanwhile the vote is expected to be divided: some board members prefer to ignore parents and run on their personal understanding of what is in the best interest of all students. Others advise careful analysis of the facts: while 7.51% positivity rate on 100,000 people is not to be ignored- this rate is not reflected in the public schools at the present time, so relying on 5 people hospitalized, zero child death and less than 3% infection rate of the students in public schools, the damage from their prolonged masking, significant decrease in oxygen level in the children’s brains and prolonged inhaling of CO2 may have more negative effects on all children – majority who are healthy.
One way to act reasonably is to consider each school separately. If Kent Island Elementary has zero Covid infected students why would anyone mask all children at that school? Similarly, if Grasonville Elementary or Kent Island High School record high Covid positvity rate equal to the State of Maryland’s population positivity rate then remedial actions like distant larnining or masking may be necessary.
Similarly- there is no State of Maryland mandatory masking requirement and it makes little sense that the Superintendent or the BOE would require students to wear a mask all day long only to go to Food Lion, restaurants or local places without masks and to return to schools the very next day fully masked.
Carefully balancing act may be required to make a decision regarding use of force in public schools – one thing Dr. Saelens failed to consider in haste to publish a letter without Board’s vote, debate or consideration. Common sense should prevail in Queen Anne’s County.