James Rada Jr.
It will definitely be a different year for education as schools work to balance education with coronavirus restrictions and parent concerns.
When school starts in Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) for student instruction on August 31, it will be without the usual pomp of parents taking first-day-of-school pictures and seeing children off on school buses. The Frederick County Board of Education decided in July that all students would learn remotely for at least the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year. Also, all athletics and extracurricular activities are suspended for this semester.
While the spring may have been hectic and confusing for students, the board of education announced it used feedback from students, parents, and teachers to improve virtual learning. According to the board, the enhancements include:
• Increased live virtual interactions between students and educators.
• A single, digital platform for students and parents to access instruction, communication, and feedback.
• Robust professional learning opportunities for educators to increase their skill set for teaching in a virtual environment, which includes on-demand professional learning videos and courses for educators.
• Student training videos that will enhance their abilities to access and learn in a virtual environment.
• Strategies to focus on individual student needs.
• Continued efforts to ensure every child can connect digitally.
According to a press release from the FCPS, students “will engage in a combination of real-time virtual instruction, instruction on an individual schedule, and completion of assigned tasks. In addition to teachers and school counselors, online learning mentors will also support students, offering designated office hours.”
Also, the grading system will return to normal.
Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg is offering students the choice between remote and classroom instruction. Parents decided which way they would like to have their children educated in the middle of August.
This decision was made in consultation with the Archdiocese of Baltimore and in seeking recommendations from public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and our state and local health authorities. The school will reopen for instruction on September 8.
“For parents who prefer in-school instruction, recommended and appropriate safety measures are in place, including the wearing of masks, social distancing measures, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the school and buses,” according to a release from the school.
Parents are not locked into their choice.
Principal Kathleen Kilty wrote in a letter to parents, “I understand that as the school year progresses, you may want to switch from in-person learning to remote learning, or from remote learning to in-person learning. One switch will be permitted. Additional switches will be discussed and decided on a case-by-case basis. It is important for the students and teachers to have consistency, and it is equally important that students participate in the best possible learning option.”
Both FCPS and Mother Seton School say they will reevaluate conditions as the school year progresses.