Bowie High School diploma pick ups Wednesday marked the Prince George’s School system fulfilling its promise to seniors that it would find a way to recognize graduation even if it was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think it was really smart and a good idea to do this,” said Class of 2020 valedictorian Carlos Encinales Angulo, who picked up his diploma Wednesday and looks forward to starting at the University of Maryland.
Even though it wasn’t a full graduation service — graduates received diplomas in caps and gowns on a rolling basis throughout the day in socially distant ceremonies — he said it was nice and he was happy the school system held it.
Those seniors are leaving Bowie High as the school system looks at how to accommodate next year’s learning environment online and Bowie High School gets a new principal.
Last month Bowie High School Principal Robynne Prince announced that she would be moving to lead Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Beltsville, and this week Bowie High Assistant Principal Joseph Kautzer announced he would start the school year as acting principal.
A letter posted to the high school’s webpage from Kautzer said opportunities to meet virtually will be announced in the coming days. He has worked at the school as an assistant principal for four years, according to the letter.
“Before becoming an administrator at Bowie I gained a wide range of experiences in education: teaching English 101 at University of Maryland, College Park; helping inmates earn their GEDs at a correctional facility in Jessup, MD; and joining PGCPS in 2011 when I taught English at Potomac High School for five years.,” Kautzer wrote.
Kautzer will be acting principal as the school system reopens Aug. 31 with classes online for the first semester. In December, the school system will decide if it’s safe for students to have the option to transition to a hybrid system with in-person learning for the second semester, Prince George’s County CEO Monica Goldson said.
Goldson answered questions about the system’s reopening plan from members of the Board of Education last week. She said the draft reopening plan PGCPS has online is a living and breathing document, being updated as they get suggestions from the community. The most up-to-date version is posted Fridays, she said, a process which will continue until Aug. 14, when the final plan must be posted for Maryland State Department of Education review.
District 5 Board of Education Member Raaheela Ahmed said during the special board meeting July 30 that she thinks starting the school year with distance learning is the right thing to do. She and other members asked Goldson about the plan, and written answers to some of those questions can be found on the BoardDocs website, where meeting materials are posted.
She asked Goldson to address whether or not students would be penalized when technical issues occur. Goldson said no. Once a student reaches out to let the system know about the problem, they can direct them to a parent support center or technology distribution site. Everyone has to be flexible, she said.
Ahmed also asked about how the system was reimagining virtual learning, and suggested finding a way for high schoolers to take any advanced placement course or niche elective they want, with the best teachers available virtually.
“Basically like a University of Maryland Global Campus for PGCPS,” she said.
Goldson said they are absolutely reimagining what school in Prince George’s could look like, and have already made progress with programs like evening school.
“The fall of 2021 will look totally different than what we thought it would look like,” she said. “I think we will have in-person experiences, but there will be some families who say ‘I want to learn virtually’ and we’ll have to have that as an option.”
Bowie Blade-News write Brandi Bottalico contributed to this article.