With uncertainty surrounding the future of the coronavirus pandemic, Anne Arundel County Public Schools are preparing for multiple scenarios for the next school year.
At Wednesday’s livestreamed school board meeting, Superintendent George Arlotto spoke about three options schools face for the fall: reopening schools for all students, keeping buildings closed and resuming online learning, and a combination of the two where students come back to the building part time and spend the rest of the time in online learning.
Arlotto said he hopes to have plans finalized by the end of July or the first week of August to be able to inform families what the start of fall will look like.
All summer programs will be online this year, with no in-person camps. If stage three of Gov. Larry Hogan’s reopening plan starts in the summer, Arlotto said schools may be able to bring small groups of students of the highest need into buildings in the summer, “But time will tell.”
“We understand there are opportunity gaps for students that were lost," Arlotto said. "We need to find a way to get those students plugged back into their learning in a really meaningful way and begin to recover what was lost.”
Outdoor antennas will be purchased to put on school buildings and extend the range of Wi-Fi signals, Arlotto said. Anne Arundel County Community College is lending the school system 60 hotspots to get out to families without internet in their homes.
“We’re excited to get our hands on those and get them to families that need them,” Arlotto said.
More than 13,000 Chromebooks have been distributed to students and more than 1,700 laptops were given to staff. Chromebook and laptop distribution is still ongoing, Arlotto said, noting that almost all students have been engaging online.
Out of more than 85,000 students, .8% are not accessing school online, Arlotto said. Half of those are elementary age students, who he said are engaging with schools with mailed learning packets.
Less than 298 students or their families have not returned calls as the school has attempted to communicate with them. Arlotto called that a good number, “but it still is a number we would like to get to 0.”
Arlotto also mentioned plans to hold an online forum for students to express their feelings, concerns and ideas since the death of George Floyd. The board offered its technology resources to make that forum happen, with a preference for before the end of the school year.