Prince George’s County schools will ask students to learn from home through at least February to protect the health of the community during the coronavirus pandemic.
Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson said her administration will reevaluate conditions in December. If it is safe to do so in February, students will have the option of returning part-time and the district will start a staggered schedule where students learn in-person two days and from a distance the other three.
“Unfortunately we are not at a time where I feel comfortable that we could move forward with excellent delivery of instruction and keeping our children safe in, physically being in, our buildings,” she said Wednesday. “I guarantee you that we will deliver an amazing, robust distance learning experience that we will be known for across the state of Maryland.”
Recovery plans for individual school districts will be reviewed by the Maryland State Department of Education to make sure they meet the requirements of Gov. Larry Hogan’s recovery plan.
The new school year begins Aug. 31. Teachers will have the option to work from their classrooms, where they will have access to more materials, Goldson said.
People who want to continue full-time distance learning during the second semester will have that option.
A telephone town hall for family and members of the community will be held Thursday.
School board member Raaheela Ahmed said one lesson from last spring is the importance of developing partnerships with non-profits and other organizations which are poised to work with students where they are, and to help fill in gaps in education. The Bowie resident predicted the community will step up this fall.
“What has been proposed by the superintendent, distance learning for the first two terms, is frankly what we need to do to make sure everyone in our system is safe,” Ahmed said.
A survey conducted during the first two weeks of June found that 12% of guardians wanted to see a full return to school in the fall, 42% supported a hybrid model that combines in-person and distance learning and 46% wanted to continue with distance learning alone, according to the school system’s website. Continuing with distance learning was also the most popular selection among teachers and administrators.
Students will have a full school day of instruction five days a week, Goldson said. Small group instruction will be offered for English Language Learners and students with special needs. Athletics are on hold. Clubs can meet virtually.
Social and emotional support will be woven into classes for secondary students, and elementary students will have components in their schedule addressing it, Goldson said. She said a comprehensive reopening guide will be released next week.
The county is also launching Parent Support Centers, where guardians can get help with using technology and accessing lessons. Schools will continue serving meals with pick-up twice a week, similar to what happened this spring, Goldson said.
Bowie Mayor Tim Adams said the most important thing is keeping children safe, which keeps whole families safe.
“We have to trust the experts on what is truly best for the safety of our students,” he said. “I understand and know as a parent the challenges that many families are going to face with this, but I think ultimately we have to trust the decisions by our leadership here, they are making those decisions based on the science.”
Other jurisdictions have slowly begun announcing reopening plans as they await a final decision from state schools Superintendent Karen Salmon.
Montgomery County plans to start the school year entirely online and gradually reintroduce students and faculty back to the buildings. Anne Arundel County is considering several options for an alternating schedule but has not finalized a plan.
In Baltimore City, classes will be held both online and in-person with alternating schedules. Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Darryl L. Williams said Tuesday he is leaning toward remote learning with a phased-in return as the school board considers how to reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year.