Calvert parents held a rally last week at the county’s board of education building, pushing the school board to begin planning for full in-person instruction for the upcoming school year.
Melissa Macuci Goshorn, the organizer of the event and mother of three students in the public school system, told Southern Maryland News the event “went really well,” with over 100 parents, students and teachers in attendance.
There were several speakers, including an elementary and high school student, and Capt. Steven Jones of the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office.
“The main points we wanted to get across to [Superintendent Daniel Curry] and the board members was that we need to start planning now. We can’t wait until summer.” She claimed private schools were already open for registration and parents need to know the public school system’s intention so they can plan ahead for their children.
“There is a desire to not have concurrent teaching next year ... teachers do a great job,” she said, claiming her kids’ teachers do as well as they possibly can, but it becomes more and more challenging to keep students engaged through a screen, while also engaging students sitting in front of them.
The organizer said she believes the rally was “super effective” as a letter of intent was sent to parents from the superintendent the next day, outlining intentions for full in-person instruction when schools reopen next school year.
“We were extremely successful … they heard us loud and clear,” she said, noting “our work isn’t done yet.” She expressed the need for the administration to involve teachers in the planning process, concerned that if teachers don’t get a firm answer on whether or not they will have to continue with concurrent teaching, they might quit.
During public comment at the board meeting immediately following the rally, Goshorn noted “as of this week, seven Maryland counties are offering four to five day in-person learning every week to all students in every grade. It is because they had a plan.”
As a strategic planning professional, she claimed moving from the virtual hybrid model isn’t “as easy as flipping a switch.”
Mandy Shaw, another parent, also expressed concern with the lack of planning for full-time learning next school year. She mentioned “by far the most challenging aspect” of the pandemic is her child continuing to learn virtually.
“A scary virus is less scary to me than the thought of going into another [virtual] school year with now two elementary-aged children,” she said. “COVID matters but it is not the only thing that matters. … I’m left wondering why our school system is so far behind.”
Patrick Nutter, board member, said, “There is no one here more concerned about the students and educators than we are, that’s why we’re here. … Personally, I think we should be coming up with a formula for starting full-time sessions in the fall.”
Dawn Balinski, another member, suggested asking the superintendent to schedule the reopen discussion for the next board meeting, but said she believes “the slow and steady approach we have taken is how we should continue to proceed because it perhaps might be the only way we can safely weather any possible new surge.”
“I’m not of the mindset that I feel like we need to make a statement as a board because that’s not our role right now,” board member Pamela Cousins, said. “I’m not supporting talking about it on the agenda in two weeks to say the board supports that.”