Elementary school teachers will move around in a T-shape model from the front of the classroom to down the middle of the room. Students will have a 6-foot bubble and can stand or turn to another to talk. The students at home will be projected on the screen and the teacher’s computer.
On Wednesday night, the Anne Arundel Board of Education discussed what the approved hybrid plan could look like in practice.
Superintendent George Arlotto and his administration presented a model for the in-person learning to give the public an idea of what school will look like for students who signed up for the hybrid plan beginning in November, as long as metrics allow.
According to a family survey, 29.4% of elementary school students opted to learn partially online and in person. Another 36.9% will continue online learning through the semester, and 33.7% will continue online through the end of the school year.
“I had teachers send me pictures of their classrooms that just brought them concern because it does not look like a play environment. When we are talking about preschool and kindergarten, play is essential,” board Vice President Melissa Ellis said.
In response to her concerns about playtime, Arlotto said the instruction would be developmentally appropriate though not as robust as it traditionally is due to health and safety measures, but the school system is looking to private schools and nonpublic schools to see what could be adapted to the public school system.
School board member Julie Hummer asked about special education students who cannot wear a mask as the system updated the plan to include a face mask requirement.
“Quite frankly, there is no good answer. We are going to work on possible solutions. We realize there will be students for a variety of reasons are not able to keep a mask on,” Arlotto said.
School board members also asked about the use of technology in classrooms, face mask breaks, and cleaning routines.
Previously, school system employees were critical about the cleaning and disinfecting routines for the hybrid plan.
Elementary schools and early education centers will have another daytime custodian reassigned from middle or high school, Arlotto said.
School board Dana Schallheim also brought up when the hybrid plan should be enacted or possibly halted as county metrics have shown a higher case rate than recommended by the health department.
“I watch the data every day, and I watched it pick up every day; right now, it is slightly down than it was, but it’s still above 10,” Schallheim said. As of Tuesday, the case rate was at 11 cases per 100,000.
The board voted down her motion to decide on Oct. 30 and instead hear recommendations from the superintendent and County Health Officer Nilesh Kalyanaraman at the next board meeting, Nov. 4.
Kalyanaraman provided metrics for county schools to follow earlier this month. Along with a team of experts, the county health department decided a daily rate of 10 cases per 100,000 people is an acceptable level to resume classrooms for kindergarten to fifth grade.
The board then discussed what date would work best to either pause the plan or continue to move forward with the hybrid timeline. Arlotto said he would meet with Kalyanaraman to go over the metrics and what he would recommend for the school system.