ELKTON — In response to increased demands on teachers, Cecil County Public Schools added five early dismissal days to the 2021-2022 calendar, giving staff more time for planning lessons and completing their work.
“There’s an increased workload this year and trying to fit everything in is not happening,” Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association President Lori Hrinko said. “That time is really going to be beneficial for our folks so they can get all the work done that needs to be done.”
Hrinko said that much of the extra time will be used for planning lessons, especially as there is an increased need for individualized instruction for students who struggled with remote learning during the pandemic.
Teachers may also use the additional time to grade assignments.
Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson said a lack of substitutes leads to many teachers spending their planning periods covering for absent staff members.
The trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic also has increased student need for support from their teachers.
“As we address our students’ learning needs and the trauma many experienced, it’s taken a toll on our staff,” Hrinko said. “There are more responsibilities, more challenges and a greater workload.”
Hrinko said teachers find themselves wishing there were more resources, such as mental health support for students.
The five early dismissal days are spread out across next year: Jan. 14, Feb. 18, March 11, March 24 and May 6.
Lawson said the school system tried to be strategic, having some early dismissal days on the Friday before current Monday holidays like Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day.
“We’re really trying to create more opportunity for our staff and teachers to have more time to plan and prep,” Lawson said.
Other school districts have instituted similar measures because of the hardships caused by the pandemic. Howard County added six early dismal days to the school calendar. The Christina School District in Delaware passed a measure giving teachers extra pay for covering a class during their planning periods.
“We feel this is a time to set aside new initiatives to take things off the plate when possible, and look for creative ways to support our staff and students,” Hrinko said.