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  • Writer's pictureWilliam C. Fanning, Jr.

Public Schools in Charles County Opening for Virtual Learning

As the new school year for 2020 to 2021 approaches, and the uncertainty of having in-person instruction for all students due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Charles County Board of Education voted on July 14, 2020, to have virtual learning for all students at the beginning of the school year, with the intention of transitioning to 'Phase 2' as quickly as possible.

The very first day of the 2020-21 school year is set for Monday, August 31, 2020.

If you are not aware, the school system has come up with their own Recovery Plan, leaving it up to each jurisdiction to determine how they proceed within Maryland's required educational guidelines. With Charles County, virtual instruction for all students was deemed the safest approach for this new school year. Phase 2 would include in person instruction for special populations of students.

Recovery Plan for Education, and What Impacts School System Decisions

When the State of Maryland is in Stage 1, all school activities are to be conducted online and through distance learning platforms.

When the State of Maryland is in Stage 2, some in-person school activities are permitted to commence, in accordance with the Governor's gating and social distancing measures.

When the State of Maryland is in Stage 3, all in person school activities resume as normal operations begin, as long as they are consistent with additional safety measures.

What Will Students Need for Virtual Learning?

There will be technological needs for students, and Charles County Public Schools are launching new technology initiatives in efforts to support online learning and access for students and staff, for the coming year of distancing learning. Through federal and state funding, they intend to provide 1-to-1 computing for high school and middle school students, although pick-up dates for these devices are not yet determined. More information can be expected to be available the closer to the first day of school beginning. High school and middle school principals will notify families of device pick up times and dates, but for high school students, this will occur in mid-August.

Of course, at the end of the previous school year, where laptops were received by students, the Charles County Public Schools will require those students to return the previous laptop before the school issues a new device.

As for elementary school students, there will be school device distribution on an as-needed basis.

Charmaine Thompson, chief of technology for CCPS, said: “Due to COVID-19 aid, we have funded technology initiatives that we were previously not able to fully fund. These initiatives will enable us to help bridge the digital divide by providing equitable access to distance and hybrid learning opportunities for our students – bringing Charles County into 21st century teaching and learning. We are going 1:1 at the high school and middle school levels – our goal is to provide each student with a device at the secondary level,” Thompson added.

Of course, when students begin to transition back to schools and centers, these devices will be collected and used for in-school instruction and testing, per the CCPS website.

Virtual Learning

The 2020-21 school year will be different from previous years, as expected. For elementary school students, Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade will have a modified six and a half (6.5) hour schedule, lasting four (4) days per week. Students will be required to attend all live virtual learning lessons, unless absent due to illness.

Expect these students to be participating in virtual learning with their home school classroom teacher, with live instruction via a learning management platform through Synergy. Prepare to have rigorous instruction and is planned for students to master grade-level standards. Traditional grading systems will still apply.

For middle and high school students, Sixth Grade through Twelfth Grade will have a modified six and a half (6.5) hour schedule, lasting four (4) days per week. Again, Students will be required to attend all online learning with their home school teachers.

This virtual learning, as well, will have rigorous instruction and is planned for students to master grade-level and course standards. Traditional grading systems will still apply, and award credits for the successful completion of each class.

More information regarding the safe return of students and staff to school are available on their website, and details will continue to develop as we get closer to the start of the new school year.

Take note, we are all in this together, and planning for the reopening virtually will be ongoing and closely monitored.

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