By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City school officials emphasized during a Board of Education meeting Wednesday night that they are committed to keeping the students and faculty safe and eventually returning to a full, five-day schedule of in-person instruction.
In doing so, the recently formed COVID Committee headed by School Board Vice President Dr. Patrick Kane meets regularly and gives daily updates to the board.
Dr. Kane could not attend the meeting due to an emergency, but School Board President Joseph Clark gave a report on a recent COVID Committee meeting of school officials and medical professionals.
“We are committed to keeping our students safe,” Clark said.
Almost daily, the committee members report pertinent information about the pandemic and how to handle things in the schools, according to Clark, who attends the committee meetings.
“We talked about the CDC guidelines, as well as what the DOE, (Department of Education) is requiring,” he said.
Currently, the county is in the yellow – considered a moderate risk level for COVID.
Clark attributed people adhering to safety protocols amid the pandemic and more people being vaccinated as helping lower the number of new COVID cases.
Some members of the school district and the public said that they should be a part of the COVID committee.
Ocean City High School art teacher Paul Matusz addressed the board during the public portion, asking that teachers be a part of the COVID Committee.
“Our goal is a shared one. Our teachers have insight and experiences,” Matusz said. “The COVID Committee has been instrumental, but this is where we feel there can be collaboration between the COVID Committee and the teachers. We owe it to our students.”
School Board member Cecelia Gallelli-Keyes agreed.
“I would like to see teachers on the COVID Committee,” she said.
In addition to the topic of the COVID Committee, five-day in-person classes for Special Education in K-12 was also discussed. It is a recent change. The district is looking to expand the five-day instruction to all of the classes.
Clark said that Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor visited the Intermediate School to look at the possibility of five days a week of in-person at the school.
Currently, five-day-a-week in-person instruction is limited to grades kindergarten through fifth.
“Every day, every week, we are examining this,” Clark said of a full reopening. “We will keep moving forward.”
In other matters, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. essay winners from the Intermediate School were celebrated.
Gabrielle Henry, Joseph Heng, Danna Ramirez and Catie Brooks will receive certificates on Friday for their winning essays.
Dr. Taylor and Intermediate School Principal Michael Mattina told the board that they were proud of the students for their efforts in explaining how Dr. King influenced them.
Ocean City parent Jennifer Bowman, who is at the helm of several community organizations, also addressed the board.
She recently created a Facebook page for parents of the Class of 2021 to interact.
“I am speaking from my heart,” Bowman said. “We have to come together as a community. We need to be Raider strong.”
She added that there is so much uncertainty about events for the kids, but the most important thing is to work together to engage the students and give them positive activities to enjoy.
“We are trying to do the best we can. Thank you for all you are doing,” she told the school board members. “I know you are doing your best. Let us know what we can do.”