Howard County Public School System students will not be returning to the classroom Monday as previously expected, as state officials announced Wednesday that the statewide school closure is being extended, a result of the coronavirus health emergency.
State schools Superintendent Karen Salmon announced that the statewide public school closure would continue through April 24.
“We did not make this decision lightly, however, with the challenges facing our state and our country we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities and the communities at large,” Salmon said.
All 77 Howard County public schools and office buildings will remain closed and all school-related activities are canceled through April 24, according to a Wednesday news release. School system staff will continue to work remotely.
Despite the additional closure, Howard schools’ spring break from April 6 to 13 will go on as scheduled for students only. All school system staff will be engaged in professional learning activities during spring break, having April 9 to 10 and April 13 off.
Over the next few weeks, the school system will slowly roll out its more detailed continued learning plan. Beginning Monday, teachers can engage virtually with students and families to offer support but cannot give out assignments or assessments. Next week, school staff will begin professional learning to prepare for distance instruction.
On April 14, high school students will begin a “more formal, teacher-led distance learning,” according to the release. Six days later, on April 20, middle school distance learning will begin. Elementary level distance instruction will be rolled out if the state decided to close schools further than April 24.
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“While it is too early to definitively say exactly when schools will reopen, we will continue to reassess the situation as we move forward,” Salmon said.
The staggered start allows for the school system “to provide additional training for middle and elementary school staff and work with families to ensure adequate technology resources are available,” the release states.
New at-home learning resources have been posted on the school system’s website and printed copies will be available at all nine meal distribution sites beginning Thursday. The materials will not be collected or graded.
The school system is “working on securing a limited number of Chromebooks [laptops] and we will do our best to accommodate all families,” Howard schools Superintendent Michael Martirano said in Wednesday’s release.
All families need to fill out a technology survey to assist the school system in knowing which families will need technical assistance.
More information regarding the continued learning plan will be discussed during Thursday’s Board of Education virtual meeting.
Martirano will provide an update Thursday that will discuss the expansion of the meals distribution program beyond Friday and an anticipated timeline as to what the continuous learning plan will look like.