Caroline County Board of Ed votes for remote learning this Fall

DENTON — The Caroline County Board of Education is grappling with how to reopen schools safely since COVID 19. They met on July 21 to discuss what is best for the Caroline County educational community. They made a unanimous vote to accept page one of the phased in plan.

At their work session, the Caroline County Board of Education voted to begin the 2020-2021 school year with distance learning for all students, which was presented in June in the Preliminary Recovery Plan as Plan A.  The decision included a phased-in approach that safely brings in specific populations and grades of students as CCPS is able to move through Plans B, C, and D of the recovery plan.

Plan A is distance learning at home only. Plan B is blended with staggered schedules and in school learning supplemented by distance learning. Plan C is normal with modifications for special populations. Plan D has all students in school.

Key areas and details of the reopening plan continue to be fully developed and will be shared as they are finalized. The complete plan will be presented at the August 4th board of education meeting, and submitted as required to the Maryland State Department of Education by August 14.

Superintendent Patty Saelens made the recommendation based on the work of the CCPS Recovery Plan, Stakeholder Group and in consultation with Roger Harrell, Health Officer for Caroline County. The decision was also informed by the recent family and employee surveys and regular communication with superintendents throughout Maryland.

Dr. Saelens stressed that virtual learning will be vastly different than the Continuity of Learning conducted by all Maryland schools this past spring, and will include direct instruction and grading of student work.

Key areas and details of the reopening plan continue to be fully developed and will be shared as they are finalized. The complete plan will be presented at the August 4th board of education meeting, and submitted as required to the Maryland State Department of Education by August 14.

“Now is the time to plan for and address the eventual reopening of schools, with an understanding that the health, safety, and wellness of students, families, educators, and staff must be a priority. National research currently indicates that many states are in the process of developing plans for the reopening of schools in the 2020-2021 school year. As reported by Education Week, May 15, 2020, “48 states, 4 U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have ordered or recommended school building closures for the rest of the academic year, affecting approximately 50.8 million public school students.” Said Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D the State Superintendent of Schools.

The decision on the reopening of schools is a decision of the State Superintendent in concert with the Governor, the State Board of Education, the MD Department of Health, and other MD agencies and personnel. Upon a decision, Dr. Salmon, will announce the reopening and will communicate directly with the Local School Superintendents and the public. From the Governor’s Maryland’s recovery plan for education.

“Every county is different. The state shouldn’t be making the decision. We want to work with the Health Department to figure out what phase we are in,” said Tolbert Rowe Vice President of the School Board.

Dr. Saelens made the recommendation based on the work of the CCPS Recovery Plan Stakeholder Group and in consultation with Roger Harrell, Health Officer for Caroline County. The decision was also informed by the recent family and employee surveys and regular communication with superintendents throughout Maryland. %59 of parents surveyed said they wanted their child to return to school. %68 said they would send their child to school by bus. %59 of parents said they had a lap top for the child to use.

Dr. Saelens stressed that virtual learning will be vastly different than the Continuity of Learning conducted by all Maryland schools this past spring, and will include direct instruction and grading of student work.

Everything will be graded. They can use Google Classroom to pull down lessons, which they are already familiar with,” said Dr. Saelens.

Local school systems must establish a reopening stakeholder group to assist in the development of the school system’s reopening plan. The group must contain a diverse group of stakeholders including parents, teachers, students, educators, and community members to encompass each system’s unique student population and needs.

They discussed social distancing options and how to encourage stakeholder participation.

We need to make sure that staff and families know that they (staff) or their children (families) should not come to school, and that they should notify school officials (e.g., the designated COVID-19 point of contact) if they (staff) or their child (families) become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, test positive for COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed or suspected case. Immediately separate staff and children with COVID-19 symptoms (such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath) at school. Individuals who are sick should go home or to a healthcare facility depending on how severe their symptoms are, and follow CDC guidance for caring for oneself and others who are sick. From Recovery plan.

Space seating/desks at least 6 feet apart when feasible. Turn desks to face in the same direction (rather than facing each other), or have students sit on only one side of tables, spaced apart. Create distance between children on school buses (g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible. From recovery plan.

Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use and clean and disinfect between use.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published guidance that recommends that on school buses, a child sits one to a seat and by alternating the rows in which students sit. For a 77-passenger bus, this would allow for approximately 13 students to be transported. It is understood that by adding social distancing requirement for all riders, the number able to be transported on a 77-passenger bus drops to 8 (not counting the driver).

The issue of athletics came up as well.

LSS athletics programs and stakeholders must embrace the notion that the safe return of interscholastic athletics will need to be administered on an incremental basis, using the latest national, state, and local health recommendations and operational procedures.

Fine Arts, Physical Education, and Health Education teachers will be included, to teach their respective content. These classes will be offered as a rotation to provide the necessary content and support to students for a well-rounded curriculum while also helping to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10 or fewer in each learning environment.

One-Day Rotation On each of four days of the week, 25 percent of the students in a school report to school. This model would apply at all levels (e.g., Elementary, Middle and High) for each of the four days. Students report to school one full day a week at all levels (e.g., Elementary, Middle and High) for four days. Students will be provided assignments to support their learning on the days in which they do not report to school that could include paper, pencil, distance learning, or a combination.

Special Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages, and resource teachers will collaborate with classroom teachers to schedule and provide required services to students. Rotated pull-out classes may also reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10 or fewer.

One day is used for teacher planning and professional learning. Students will not report to school, distance learning will continue. Two-day rotation: all students report to school two full days a week (e.g., Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/ Friday). Students would be provided assignments to support their learning on the days in which they do not report to school that could include paper, pencil, eLearning or a combination.

Fine Arts, Physical Education, and Health Education teachers will be included, to teach their respective content. These classes will be offered as a rotation to provide the necessary content and support to students for a well-rounded curriculum while also helping to reduce the student-teacher ratios to 10 or fewer in each learning environment.

Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education marylandpublicschools.org INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAMS A/B Week Half of the student population will report to school for four full days each week, while the remaining second half of the school population participates in distance learning at home. The student population will alternate between each week. All grade bands will be included.

Synchronous learning – learning that happens in real time with interaction between the teacher and students that occurs in a face to face environment or in a virtual classroom setting. Asynchronous learning – learning that occurs online without real-time interaction or instruction by an educator.

The topic of safely transporting students was discussed.

School bus drivers will need to attend in-services before transporting students to be informed about new policies and procedures, as well as understand how to effectively clean their bus. There is a high level of concern that these drivers/ attendants (many of which are in the high risk category for COVID-19) will be unwilling to put themselves at-risk unless there is widespread testing or vaccine for drivers and children. School systems should be prepared to provide all bus drivers protection equipment that should include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, a forehead thermometer, and wipes.

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