Calvert County schools will begin classes this fall online, joining nearly half of Maryland’s school districts that have already made announcements that they will start with virtual learning.
All of Calvert school board members agreed during the board’s virtual July 24 meeting that students would begin the school year learning from home. Baltimore City, Prince George’s, Howard, Montgomery, Baltimore, Washington, Hartford, Anne Arundel, Garrett, Charles and St. Mary’s counties made the same decision.
It was decided the day after Calvert’s virtual town hall addressed questions from the community and explained how online learning would look.
More synchronous, or real time, learning will occur compared to the end of last school year, Diane Workman, assistant superintendent of instruction, said. She said parents will need to make sure students are online at the right time.
A mock schedule was presented during the livestreamed meeting to show what a student’s day will look like.
For a high schooler, the day will start with an hour of English in the morning, a 30-minute break, an hour of math, another 30-minute break, an elective, lunch, science, a break, then another elective. The mock schedule also included an independent study that could be one-on-one with a teacher or in a small group with other students.
The middle school schedule will look similar but include fine arts and physical education. The elementary schedule will have three hours of daily synchronous teaching and include social-emotional learning and specialized instruction.
Normal grading will return. Students will use the platform Schoology for their classes in the fall and they are waiting to hear from the state for guidance on attendance.
“We will be asking all staff to work from their classroom or office,” Workman said. “Students need to see their teacher teaching from the classroom,” she said, adding that staff must wear face coverings inside but may remove them while teaching.
However, later in the meeting, it appeared teachers would not be required to work from their classrooms.
Superintendent Daniel Curry said he received a lot of comments from staff concerned about working inside the buildings. He said they would join other staff, like maintenance and building service workers, who worked in the building all summer.
“We should actually be insulted that educators have not been considered essential employees,” he said.
He listed eight more reasons why they should not work from home, including technology, collaboration with others and the 50-75 teachers new to the school system.
Calvert’s education association released a statement last week advocating for online learning. A survey they conducted with responses from 70% of the members showed four of every five believed the school year should be virtual.
And, “88% of teachers do not believe it is possible to keep students socially distant,” the statement read. It continued, “85% say they do not believe it will be possible to enforce mask wearing. 88% of teachers say that CCPS will not be able to keep either students or staff safe from COVID-19. Further, if instruction is to happen online, 95% of teachers say they should continue to work from home because it is not safe to return to the buildings.”
Board member Tracy McGuire said there are advantages of staff working from school while taking safety precautions. Board member Dawn Balinski said she understands both Curry’s and the educators’ point of view, but board member Pam Cousins said she did not.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said “if you can telework, telework,” Cousins said. She said it should be an option to teachers.
Inez Clagget, the board’s vice chair, said it should be a case-by-case basis.
Curry said at the school board meeting that he was “willing to back off” from his position to have teachers in the classroom. It was later announced that staff will have the option to telework.
Although the board voted for a virtual start, it also acknowledged some students need specialized instruction in-person. Staff will decide who can learn face-to-face and what safety precautions will be taken.
Board members did not want to set an end date to virtual learning. If or when students return to school, Kim Roof, the director of student services, said masks and gowns would be available and they might receive Plexiglas barriers and considering to use thermometers to take students’ temperatures.
The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 1, for Calvert students.
Board member William Phalen was not present during the meeting.