Students in Anne Arundel County could learn virtually on inclement weather days in the future instead of having the day off, Superintendent George Arlotto told politicians Friday, a change that would eliminate the need to close schools completely on snow days.
So far this year the system has closed for inclement weather on five days. Three days are built into the school calendar, but the two days beyond that have caused school officials to extend the school year. The original last day of June 22 is now June 24 and will be pushed even later if more snow or inclement weather arrives.
Speaking at a meeting with Anne Arundel members of the Maryland House of Delegates, Arlotto said the Maryland State Department of Education requires 180 days of in-person learning, so the system could not switch to virtual on snow days without permission.
Lora Rakowski, a spokesperson for the state education department, said on Jan. 14 that state Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury presented an option to superintendents that will allow them to go virtual on inclement weather days.
Arlotto said now the system has to prepare and present a plan for how it will deliver virtual instruction on inclement weather days. Five schools in the county are currently in virtual instruction due to COVID-19 outbreaks, and Arlotto said that transition process will inform the system’s plan for switching to remote learning on snow days.
The plan must call for a minimum of four hours of synchronous learning per day and must include accommodations for Individualized Education Plans.
The plan must be presented to the public and the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, which must approve it. Then the plan will need the approval of the state education department as well.
“I’ll work with our board president to put this on an upcoming agenda as soon as possible,” Arlotto said.
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The next Board of Education meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2.
Rakowski said the state education department will review plans as expeditiously as possible. She said Allegany, Kent and Washington counties have been cleared to operate virtually on snow days, following inquiries made by those school systems to the state.
The ability to go to school virtually on days with bad weather will prevent the school year from moving deeper into the month of June, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire said Friday.
The issue was on his mind before Arlotto’s announcement, and he said he has drafted legislation that will allow districts around the state to have the option to operate virtually on inclement weather days.
Many people don’t want their children in school so late in June, Simonaire said. Instead of a day off sledding in the winter, kids can have a longer summer to crab, fish and swim, he said.
“It’s completely optional, another tool in the tool box for the school board,” he said.
Simonaire said he plans to submit the bill next week.