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Carroll County schools extend third quarter, expand meals program; graduation still in question

The Carroll County Board of Education talked about third quarter grades, expanding meals service for students, and the continued reality of teaching at a social distance due to coronavirus restrictions during its April meeting, held virtually and livestreamed Wednesday night.

Though they began without the usual in-person public comment session, the Board members discussed ways to share their thoughts. After discussing and consulting with the school system’s attorney, it was decided that comments submitted by mail or email would be posted on the CCPS website at the same time the livestreamed board meetings go live.

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Board members’ comment included far less of their usual summaries of events happening in the school system, but contained much praise for those in the system working to bring learning online.

“Like all of you, I wish we didn’t have this challenge, but I compliment everybody,” Board member Kenneth Kiler said.

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Superintendent Steve Lockard addressed the fact that many questions remain about the end of the school year. He said they continue to work to answer questions for students, especially seniors like his own child, who want to know what grades and graduation ceremonies will look like.

On recognizing the milestone of graduation, he said, “I want to make that happen in some form or fashion,” but will need a few more weeks to get more information about what will be possible and what the disease trajectory will be. He has received many good suggestions from the community, he said.

Chief of Schools Cindy McCabe talked about the update for grading standards in quarter 3, where the grading window will be extended to give students more time to turn in and complete work.

They don’t have final answers, but schools are trying to communicate to students the possibility that third-quarter grades may be what is used to calculate GPA. “We want to give students opportunity to put in the work to get the GPA where they need it to be,” McCabe said.

More answers about fourth quarter will need to come from the state, she said.

Jason Anderson, chief of Academics, Equity and Accountability commented that phase one of moving to distance learning had been availing content to teachers. Now phase two is training and expanding their capacity to use the tools, he said. He commented that “It’s often said we work with digital natives,” but students need help learning new technology, too, because they’re dealing with pedagogical technology, not social media for example.

McCabe said the school system is on day three of the delivery of laptops to families through a process at each school that follows the tenants of social distancing. They had more than 1,500 requests for laptops and so far have delivered more than 1,000.

Offline, the thousands of workbooks are being shipped out to families in grades kindergarten through eighth. The goal of these was to give teachers and families a curriculum resource to use, while the packets being created at the high school level are more geared toward students with limited internet and device access.

Work also continues to bring Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for students with special needs into a modified format. The state has instructed county school systems to amend these. Similar processes are happening for ESOL students.

He said a message to schools has been “yes we have expectations, and yes we want to cover content,” but it has to be done in a methodical way “so everyone is able to consume what we are providing.”

Board member Tara Battaglia asked about resources to help parents help students. CCPS said that reaching out to teachers is the best path right now.

School-level administrators are working on setting expectations with staff about distance learning and communication, as well as problem solving with families about access issues on a case-by-case basis, McCabe said.

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Chief of Operations Jonathan O’Neal gave an update on the meal service being provided at no cost to students while schools are closed. The program is growing and on April 8 served 2,084 individuals three meals.

They have expanded to a new pickup site at Elmer Wolfe Elementary and next week will expand to Spring Garden Elementary and East Middle School. Then, starting April 14, the Department of Transportation will be joining the program with bus contractors delivering meals out to even more points in the county.

In response to a question from Battaglia, O’Neal shared that the school system had inventoried the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the nursing program at the Career & Technology Center and some from Facilities Management and delivered it to the county’s emergency management center for distribution.

The Board voted to award bids for some summer projects already budgeted for this year as construction remains categorized as an essential business. These include a roof replacement for Cranberry Station, construction items for the Career and Technology Center renovation, new doors at Oklahoma Road Middle, and office supplies for the next school year.

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