EducationLocalPrince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Board Set to Vote on School Reopening Plan

The Prince George’s County school board plans to vote Thursday on a reopening virtual learning plan that includes live sessions with teachers, independent work and at least two breaks during the day.

Students will receive at least six hours of instruction and the school system’s transportation department plans to deliver meals in neighborhoods where students live more than 1½ miles from a school.

Nine centers will be set for parents and guardians to receive assistance with accessing various technology and navigating platforms starting Sept. 1, one day after the first day of the 2020-21 school year.

“Six hours for a child is a long time. It is going to be hard, but it is safer than sending the kids back to school,” said school board member Belinda Queen, who supports the virtual learning plan through Jan. 29. “Teachers are going to have to be creative. It’s going to be a lot different for everybody.”

The full draft report, which can be viewed on the PGCPS website, provides advice from parents who endured distance and online instruction when schools closed March 16.

The best suggested practices include establishing a routine with your child, communicating with the teacher, asking for help and to “give yourself grace.”

A half-day schedule will be provided for students in pre-kindergarten, Montessori schools and early childhood centers.

An early morning schedule shows four live sessions with a small group setting in between from 8 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. In the following hour, students will have a break and then complete the day with lunch.

Those students in the second half, or “P.M. schedule,” will also receive four lessons with small group instruction in between from 11:25 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. However, no break and lunch will be provided in this session.

School officials will assess a hybrid model starting Dec. 1 to determine whether students can return to the buildings twice a week. Teacher-led instruction and access to teachers would be arranged on Wednesdays.

School systems statewide will be allowed the “flexibility” on how to reopen schools.

Depending on conditions and locality, public schools Superintendent Karen Salmon said school systems may be more restrictive than the state’s education recovery plan.

“Our job at the state department is to help systems succeed and keep staff and students safe, regardless of which path they choose,” she said during a July 22 press conference at the State House in Annapolis alongside Gov. Larry Hogan. “Within the framework of local control, the state will set a series of guardrails for school systems.”

No matter how schools open, they must adhere to guidelines prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including washing hands, social distancing and face coverings for staff and students “particularly when physical distancing is not possible.”

To help with the digital divide amongst students with limited to no technology, the state will provide $100 million for Wi-Fi access and devices. Another $100 million will go toward tutoring to help students who have fallen behind since schools closed for in-person instruction March 16.

As schools continue to participate in summer school sessions and enrichment learning programs, Salmon said nine school systems have already decided to begin the school year to conduct virtual and online learning that include Prince George’s, Charles, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties.

Officials in Frederick County continue to work on a reopening plan, but a parent advisory group supports a hybrid model where students would attend class twice a week and virtual learning three times a week.

Four parents in the county on Tuesday, July 28 hosted “Considering homeschooling?,” a virtual discussion on education alternatives.

In the meantime, Salmon stressed schools must also rely on state and local health officials to determine when schools could bring students back to the classroom.

“The reopening of schools is a deeply personal issue,” she said. “What happens in the weeks ahead is largely depending upon each of us.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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