xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Students adjust as first week back ends for Anne Arundel public schools

Drake Smith, a senior at Meade High and student board member, spent his first week back to school balancing reaching out to other students via social media while keeping up with his online classes.
Drake Smith, a senior at Meade High and student board member, spent his first week back to school balancing reaching out to other students via social media while keeping up with his online classes. (Courtesy Photo)

For the first week back to school, a senior at Meade High School balanced signing onto his Google classroom while also checking in with his constituents, county public school students.

Drake Smith, the student member of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, said he was excited to get back to school and for the first couple of days of the 2020 to 2021 school year, he reached out to other students on his Instagram account to hear how school was going for them.

Advertisement

“Students really like the structure. In any other year, you’re not going to see students this excited to be back in school and excited to be back with a structure,” Smith said.

On Tuesday, 85,000 students logged to the start of a very different school year. For Smith, he not only logged on but also helped recreate the online environment with a pledge of allegiance video that was used for schools.

Advertisement

When he connected with other students, they pointed out their appreciation for the new schedule.

Smith said the schedule allowed time for students to feel more refreshed in the mornings and during the day, students could take breaks or take a quick nap.

“It’s like a break in the middle of the day,” he said.

Student board member Drake Smith poses with his twin brother, Drew Smith, for the first day back to school. Anne Arundel County Public Schools began the online start on Tuesday, tasking students and teachers to log on to Google classroom instead of heading into school buildings.
Student board member Drake Smith poses with his twin brother, Drew Smith, for the first day back to school. Anne Arundel County Public Schools began the online start on Tuesday, tasking students and teachers to log on to Google classroom instead of heading into school buildings. (Courtesy Photo)

The schedule also has a new component, on Wednesdays students are able to sign up for “flex learning time," in which teachers can offer smaller learning group sessions based on individual needs, according to the county public schools reopening plan.

On the first day back, one of the main technical issues was forgotten passwords by both students and staff, school spokesperson Bob Mosier said on Tuesday. By the end of the week, he said there were some incidents but overall the system experienced “a good four days."

The first week back was also focused on relationships as teachers were tasked with fostering relationships with students. Smith said one of the online activities to get to know each other involved decorating an online locker with stickers, as one would do in person.

For him, he used stickers that show his love for baseball and some of his favorite movies and songs.

Teachers also did wellness checks as the pandemic, and a summer full of protest and racial reckoning, have created stress onto students before they even began school. In addition to flex time, the school system brought homeroom online with community meeting sessions.

Though the first meeting was more so focused on what to expect, Smith said those sessions can be used to focus on student wellness and tackling societal issues that were brought up during the summer student panels.

“We’re going to give them a space to talk about it, a safe space,” he said.

Instruction was also still part of back to school. Mosier said though there was an emphasis on relationship building, teachers were still able to provide instruction.

“I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that no instruction happened this week because you can build relationships through instruction,” Mosier said.

Advertisement

The school system also distributed meals throughout the week, as a federal waiver allowed for the expansion of the summer meals program. For the first week of school, the system served 29,100 students, said Mosier in an email. The week before school began, the system served 13,604 students.

Parents also balanced working from home and helping their children with school. For those who could not stay home, organizations like the Y opened up learning support centers in schools so students could be dropped off and still receive support from staff.

Even if most of the week was uneventful, the first week back did have some issues with classroom content.

Arundel High released a letter of apology after the principal discovered a U.S. government class was using the name of a former county sheriff as part of a lesson on rule of law.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement