CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Commissioners called Thursday for a set schedule for the return of all public school students to the classroom.

School systems across the country are struggling to return education to a sense of normalcy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jake Shade, commission president, shared his views on the local impact during the regular bi-monthly meeting of the board at the County Complex on Kelly Road. Shade said the current model of a phased return of students for partial days is lacking.

“We have been approached by many, many people about this,” said Shade. “Our opinion on this is: Garrett County has been going back to school, Mineral County (West Virginia) is already back, Bishop Walsh has been back the entire time. Bishop Walsh (a private school) follows the exact same guidelines as Allegany County Public Schools; there is no difference because they operate in the state of Maryland.”

Shade said the Allegany County Board of Education is largely responsible for setting a timeline for the return.

“So be aware, it is not the (Allegany County) health department, it’s not them saying Allegany County Public Schools can’t open. I think we need a timeline for the parents, and a timeline for teachers so they know what their doing. I feel horrible for them. But I feel the most horrible of all for the students who are trying to deal with this virtual learning. Everyone is trying to make it work, but we are not delivering the education that they need,” said Shade.

Commissioner Dave Caporale agreed.

“This has been going on for a while and we’ve been getting a lot of information and emails regarding this matter,” said Caporale. “I agree. In some way, shape or form we need to be getting kids back to school. It’s important for them and it’s important for everybody.”

The school board has been returning students in a phased, gradual manner for partial days of a hybrid program that combines virtual and in-person learning. It began with the return of pre-school and kindergarten students in early October, followed by elementary school students. Beginning Monday, grades three and four will return for two days a week of in-person classes which will dismiss at 1:30 p.m. The students will be divided by last name with A-L attending on Mondays and Wednesdays and M-Z attending Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday will be a virtual learning day.

“Some grades are back but they won’t say what the timeline is for any other grade and now we are really falling behind,” Shade told the Times-News after the meeting. “We are falling behind Garrett County, way behind Mineral County and Pennsylvania and of course Bishop Walsh. We have to start moving in that direction. I hope they are able to figure something out.”

Shade commented during the meeting, “The county has offered whatever we can do to help them in any way possible. We just funded school resource officers and I’m not sure why we needed to fund that when there is no one in school.

“The board of education needs to present a plan when every student can be allowed back in school and it needs to be done soon. We are now over six months and there is no end in sight. That should be priority number one for everyone (at the) Washington Street (school board office).”

Greg Larry is a reporter at Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email and follow him on Twitter.

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