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

Anne Arundel parents file appeal to Maryland education department to halt the hybrid reopening plan

Anne Arundel County school system parents are asking the state education department to stop the hybrid reopening plan, according to a complaint.

On Tuesday, four Annapolis parents and India Ochs, also a parent who is currently running for the school board seat in District 6 in Annapolis, submitted a formal complaint with the Maryland State Department of Education stating that the hybrid plan was “arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal.”

Advertisement

County school officials had not yet seen the complaint and could not comment on Friday morning, school spokesperson Bob Mosier said.

At the base of it all, the plan is inequitable, said one of the appellants, Annapolis parent Jessica Pachler.

Advertisement

“I really have a lot of concerns as to whether we are looking at this through the lens of our most at-risk students. We talk about ‘all means all,’ and we talk about equity, but I worry that we are not looking at it through the lens of our most at-risk students,” she said.

Instead, she said the plan is better suited for families who have resources.

The hybrid plan and the process behind it with the school board moving ahead and system putting out information was flawed for families who have language barriers or lack access to technology, she said.

In particular, the Annapolis cluster serves families who speak Spanish and attend Title 1 schools with high numbers of low-income families, a population that should have been considered as there are additional resources given to help those students before the plan was approved, Pachler explained.

“I am intensely aware of the diversity that we have within our community, and the difficulties the people in our community have in accessing the information,” she said.

The complaint states that the hybrid plan and all additional materials sent out by the school system were not translated into Spanish, an issue for families with language barriers, it was a violation of student confidentiality and privacy for students who receive special education services, and that the plan was inequitable.

Despite these challenges, the school system required parents to respond to the plan in what the complaint explains was a contract. Pachler said, in general, the hybrid process had moved too quickly with constant updates that, at times, were confusing.

The complaint brings up previous concerns voiced by special education parents like the recently decided face mask requirement. Parents have said this decision would make it too challenging for some children with disabilities to go back to school buildings.

The complaint challenges the mask requirement and school officials' response that students who cannot wear a mask will continue to learn online, calling it discriminatory.

“This denial of a student’s ability to participate in in-person learning is discriminatory by nature, given students who cannot wear masks for medical reasons and are not able to have equal access to in-person learning that their peers can participate in,” the complaint states.

Residents also see issues with how the school board has limited live public input until recently, with the live online hearing on Wednesday. The complaint brings up the school board’s policy on public comment for agenda items.

“The public had limited time to review the proposed reopening plan prior to the meetings, and additional information was shared at all meetings, including on October 7, 2020, that would impact public comment prior to a vote,” the complaint states.

Advertisement

When it comes to equity issues, the complaint outlines that families who did not respond to the deadline should have been contacted instead of automatically signed up for the online all-year option.

“There are many reasons families may not submit the registration agreement by the deadline,” the complaint states, citing barriers like internet access or parents who were sick or traveling.

“This is a binding agreement, and AACPS has not made any statements that changes can be made if committing to virtual full year.”

Based on those concerns and others like safety and health, parents are asking that the Maryland state board stop the plan and implement another one for the second semester of the school year.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement