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Dec. 17, 2021, Update: Decisions Related to School System Activities

December 17th, 2021

The following statement was issued by HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano on Dec. 17, 2021:

Earlier this week, I made the decision to pause extracurricular activities and other events being held in HCPSS school buildings in order to contain the significant and rapid spread of COVID–19. During the last two weeks, positive cases in schools have increased at an alarming rate, which can likely be attributed to in-person gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday and the colder weather bringing people indoors, as well as the rapid omicron and/or Delta spread.

These past few days have allowed us to work alongside the Howard County Health Department and gain greater clarity on the areas and activities being most impacted by this increase. Additionally, it has allowed us to implement critical screening testing at schools with the highest rate in an effort to slow the spread as quickly as possible.

We are now to a point where we can begin to resume some activities, with precautions, and be more tactical in decisions that will be driven by data and guidance by our health partners. Because of their current high rates of spread, all activities beyond the school day at Oakland Mills, Hammond and Mt. Hebron high schools and Laurel Woods Elementary School will remain suspended until further notice.

I will now detail activities that may resume immediately, those that may begin on January 3, 2022, and additional information on plans moving forward.

Immediate Resumption of Activities

The following activities and events may resume immediately. Masks must be worn during all indoor activities.

Activities Resuming on January 3, 2022

The following activities may resume on January 3, 2022. Masks must be worn during all indoor activities except when student-athletes are actively participating in practices and competitions indoors or outdoors.

Looking Ahead

During its meeting on December 16, 2021, the Howard County Board of Education voted to require a plan for resuming all in-person activities that includes a test-to-play requirement for athletics and theater. This plan will be developed over the course of the next week and communicated as soon as it is completed. Athletics competitions and theater performances will be permitted to resume once that plan is in place and at a point following the resumption of practices on January 3, 2022.

Additionally, decisions to suspend activities moving forward will be made on a school-by-school and activity-by-activity basis with input from the Health Department. As soon as activities may resume at Oakland Mills, Hammond, and Mt. Hebron high schools and Laurel Woods Elementary School, the community will receive notification by the school.

Thank you for your understanding as we seek to keep our school communities healthy and safe for students, staff and families. This brief pause was critical as it allowed us to examine how we make decisions during a time of significant cases. Additionally, it allowed us to quickly implement a critical testing screening program in collaboration with the Health Department at schools currently experiencing the highest numbers of cases.

I will continue to make decisions with the primary focus of keeping school buildings healthy and open through the entire school year. We will pay close attention to the rapidly evolving data and implement necessary mitigation strategies.

Over the winter break, please take all efforts to remain healthy. The last thing I want to happen is to have to suspend activities again in January due to another significant escalation of cases.