ROCK HALL — Students are back in the classroom at the elementary and middle schools here.
At a Kent County Board of Education meeting Monday, Nov. 9, Superintendent Karen Couch announced that hybrid instruction is fully in place for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. She said Nov. 9 was the first day for kindergarten through second grade.
Due in part to the challenges posed by students’ schedules, instruction at Kent County High School is expected to remain virtual through the end of the first semester in late January. Students of all grades also were given the opportunity to remain fully remote.
At the elementary schools, the hybrid schedule calls for two cohorts of students who alternate two days in the buildings each week.
Couch said that due to the number of middle schoolers who opted to continue with fully remote education, those going to Kent County Middle School are in classrooms four days a week.
All instruction is virtual on Fridays.
Rachel Jones is the non-voting student member of the Board of Education. A senior at Kent County High School, she was asked her thoughts on remote learning.
Jones said she likes virtual learning, though her course of study is different than for other high schoolers. She is part of the dual enrollment program, taking two high school classes and classes at Washington College.
Jones said teachers are finding interesting ways to keep students engaged.
One principal’s efforts in reopening her school received special attention from her staff and Kent County Public Schools administrators.
Brenda Rose, principal at Garnet Elementary School in Chestertown, received the school system’s Golden Anchor Award at the meeting, presented by Ed Silver, supervisor of human resources. The award recognizes those who embody the KCPS mission of being “anchored in excellence.”
“These past few months have been by far the most challenging ones for our educators and Brenda has tirelessly worked to be sure that Garnet was ready for the staff and students to return safely,” Silver read from Rose’s commendation submitted by the staff at Garnet. “Even when things may be uncertain, she manages to lead with confidence and kindness.”
The recognition meant a great deal to Rose.
She said the staff are happy to have students back in the classrooms.
“It hasn’t been easy. But everyone’s working together and everyone truly cares about our students,” Rose said.
Couch presented a new dashboard that is to be added to the KCPS website keeping people informed about COVID-19 cases in the school system. She said it will be updated at 4 p.m. every Friday.
While medical privacy regulations limit what information can be publicly released, Couch said the dashboard will show the number of confirmed positive cases among students and staff, along with dates and locations. She said the numbers will reflect only those who are in KCPS buildings, not those students who opted to continue with fully remote learning.
“We feel like this is going to be a help to our parents,” she said.
Tracey Williams, supervisor of secondary education and student services, joined the meeting via the Zoom teleconferencing app with the school system’s guidance counselors and social workers. They discussed what is being done to help address students’ social and emotional well-being.
William Poore, supervisor of technology, discussed how the school system is continuing to bolster internet access for students who do not readily have it.
Poore spoke about internet hotspots the school system obtained with grant funds that families can to sign out. He said hotspots have been distributed to 100 families, with 167 students being served.
While there is a waiting list, it is shrinking, Poore said. He there are currently only two students students, both high schoolers, on the wait list and they were added Nov. 7.
Poore said that hotspots have been returned by families who no longer require them.
“So we turn those around and redistribute them as fast as we can,” he told board members, noting that six went out earlier that day.
He said Wi-Fi-enabled buses also are continuing to be deployed in areas of high need.
As for sports, Couch said administrators are working on revising the plan for student athletics following state approval for a December launch. She said there is a meeting for schools in the Bayside conference this week.
“I think it’s a matter of trying to give the kids an opportunity to have some interaction with their peers,” Couch told board members. “(We are) just trying to find as many opportunities for our kids to have some kind of normalcy, if you will.”
Couch said discussions include Kent County High School teams traveling no farther south than Dorchester County. She said there also is the question of spectators.
One sport reportedly singled out in discussions on athletics and health safety concerns is wrestling.
Board member Wendy Costa said she is concerned that with renewed in-person interactions with students, teachers are going to find more have fallen behind than when they were in classrooms. She suggested planning a volunteer tutoring program.
“I just think we’re gong to need it and tutoring is really effective. And I just think we should start planning this now,” Costa said.
The next monthly meeting of the Board of Education is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14 at the KCPS central office in Rock Hall. The board will immediately go into closed session, returning for the open portion of the meeting at 6:30 p.m.
Meetings continue to be closed to the public. They are livestreamed via the KCPS Facebook page. Meeting agendas and supporting documents are posted at go.boarddocs.com/mabe/kcps/Board.nsf/Public.