Anne Arundel County Public Schools is considering a plan to switch to virtual learning on days with inclement weather.
Superintendent Mark Bedell said no one plans to get rid of snow days altogether, but there is still much to be explored with the new learning tool. Last school year was extended through June 24 due to eight inclement weather days.
During Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, Chief Communications Officer Bob Mosier reviewed guidelines set by the Maryland State Department of Education, which dictate how virtual instruction can be used for the current academic year. He also reviewed the county’s plan for virtual instruction this year, which includes a maximum of eight virtual instruction days during inclement weather.
Mosier sits on the school system’s Calendar Committee. He is also a familiar voice to many, recording the automatic messages parents receive by phone when schools are canceled due to foul weather. He even did so by song in 2016, parodying pop star Adele.
The plan is just for this year, Mosier said. In the future the system could expand virtual instruction for teacher conference days or days like Election Day, when schools are unavailable.
The system is required to provide at least 180 days of instruction per year.
This year’s plan only includes bad weather days, Mosier said. With many families’ calendars set for the year, changing something like Election Day to a virtual instruction day would cause confusion.
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The system is promising virtual days won’t affect a student’s grade or a staff member’s paycheck.
The system could use as many as eight virtual instruction days under the plan and would use no more than three per marking period. Superintendent Mark Bedell would decide when to switch to a virtual day, and if the day would have live instruction, called synchronous learning, or independent asynchronous learning. The system would have no more than three asynchronous days.
The school system would need to reach an agreement with the Teacher’s Association of Anne Arundel County through which staff would create an asynchronous lesson — one that doesn’t require live teaching — in advance, to be used if needed.
Both synchronous and asynchronous instruction would count as a full work and school day for staff and students, respectively.
Mosier said students wouldn’t be penalized if they miss work or can’t log on during a virtual instruction day, and would get a chance to make up that work in-person. Staff — including custodians and cafeteria workers — would not lose pay because of the decision to have a virtual instruction day, Mosier said.
The system’s plan is posted online at www.aacps.org. The school board will seek public comment on the plan through Sept. 18 and vote on it at its Sept. 21 meeting.
If approved by the board, the plan must also be reviewed and approved by the Maryland State Department of Education before taking effect.