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School system prepares laptops for distance learning

Laptops for distance learning

Mike Mickey, a network engineer with Charles County Public Schools, prepares a staff laptop as the school system readies for distance learning during the school closure.

With the Maryland school closure extending through April 24, Charles County Public Schools is preparing to distribute laptops to students who need them to complete distance learning assignments.

Some laptops were distributed this week, while others will be ready next week, according to a school system press release.

On March 13, the last day students and staff were in schools before the closure, students took a two-question survey, answering if they have internet at home and if they have a device to complete schoolwork. Based on survey results, some 2,400 laptops are set to be distributed, the press release stated.

Computer analysts are preparing student laptops which includes cleaning and updating them. Each computer will come with a bag, charger and instruction sheet.

Technology staff will contact each school principal to determine pickup times and dates, with some schools requiring a multi-day distribution. Parents will be contacted by their child’s school with an appointment time and date to pick up the equipment.

Parents must be on the pickup list in order to receive a device for their child. For those not on the list, an administrator will take their information and reschedule a pickup time. In order to pick up a laptop, parents will be required to provide the student’s name and student ID number.

The school system, in partnership with AT&T FirstNet, has purchased and placed public access WiFi cellular hotspots at Piccowaxen Middle School, Matthew Henson Middle School, Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School and T.C. Martin Elementary School. CCPS chose the hotspot locations using information from its recent student technology survey, Comcast and Verizon hotspot maps, and a recent broadband survey county government conducted to determine the areas in highest need.

The CCPS instructional technology team is working on a more permanent solution for public access WiFi at schools located in or near communities with the most need. Use of hotspots for distance learning is permitted under Gov. Larry Hogan’s stay-at-home order issued on Monday, March 30.

To use the hotspots:

• Pull into the front parking lot.

• Open your WiFi connection or network connection screen.

• Look for the network name “Public Access.”

• The network password is CharlesCounty (one word, the letter C is capitalized both times).

Paper is available

For those who don’t have access to technology or prefer to complete their work using pen and paper, the online lessons will be available in paper packets for pick up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday, at the 11 CCPS meals sites: Henry E. Lackey High; Maurice J. McDonough High; St. Charles High; Westlake High; Milton M. Somers Middle; Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary; Indian Head Elementary; Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary; Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary; J.C. Parks Elementary; and J.P. Ryon Elementary.

For paper assignments, students are asked to keep a “portfolio.” Students should keep all their work together and once schools open, they can bring it in to receive grades. For students who opt to use a hybrid of online and paper instruction, they should keep their paper assignments in order to hand them in to their teachers once schools reopen.

The upcoming middle and high school assignments will focus on the four core subjects of English, math, science and social studies and count for fourth-quarter grades. However, CCPS is waiting for direction from the Maryland State Department of Education as to how those assignments will be graded.

Teachers are considering equity and consistency moving forward as well as the needs of students in special education programs and those who are in English learners programs.

Special education teachers will review all student IEPs in their caseload and use Goalbook, an online platform for teachers and students that centers on the achievement of individual student learning goals.

Elementary school assignments will be accessible at www.ccboe.com. Middle and high school students will use Apex Learning, a digital curriculum program that is already being used by high school students enrolled in the Virtual Academy to complete coursework.

More details about accessing distance learning assignments will be forthcoming.

Students and parents will receive login information and student expectations for completion of the work.

The assignments will likely start rolling out online and paper packets available for pickup starting April 3.

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