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With end of school year damaged by pandemic nearing, CCPS plans for summer learning, OKs capital budget

Carroll County Public Schools leaders on Wednesday passed the system’s capital budget for the next year and turned their attention to the summer, after a semester overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During previous budget discussions, CCPS staff shared that they would have to conduct virtual “recovery” learning over the summer to help make up for school facilities being closed since mid-March. This is a summer program being planned for students who have gaps in their fourth-quarter learning.

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But in Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, Chief Academic, Equity and Accountability Officer Jason Anderson said there is a “sliver of hope” that the system could hold an in-person summer learning program if Maryland has progressed to “Phase 2” of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan for reopening activities shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Whether at a distance or face to face, the summer program will take place from July 6 to 31. CCPS staff will make the call in the first half of June whether the program can include in-school instruction.

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“Student safety is our number one priority, and we always want to lead with that,” Anderson said.

If a decision is made to hold in-school instruction, classrooms would be set up for social distancing and would include a maximum of one teacher and nine students. There would be new procedures for moving in the hallways and using bathrooms.

Anderson said that with a nine-to-one ratio of students to teachers, this recovery program could be “a win for CCPS” if they are able to move forward.

Transportation would need to be handled by families, though Anderson said they will look at circumstances where this might be a problem. Bus transportation would be more costly and logistically complicated, he said, and could raise issues with kids not social distancing on the buses.

The instructional team is working on lessons that can work in person or virtually. Equity is a big part of the process, Anderson said, because many of the students who will benefit from summer recovery are those who didn’t have connectivity and access in the fourth quarter.

The school system announced the cancellation of other Summer Enrichment programs in order to prioritize the building space and personal protective equipment for recovery learning. Anderson said some of the most popular programs, such as Camp Invention, will have some online activities this summer.

Schools will send out a letter soon to see how many families want to participate in summer learning recovery.

Semester closeout

Staff discussed with the board how CCPS will be doing exchanges of items that students left in schools and the return of items like library books. They’re planning to do a no-contact method similar to the procedure they used earlier for distributing laptops.

Students who were issued laptops will get to keep those laptops over the summer.

For teachers, instructional assistants and other building staff, there will be scheduled times to go into the building and close out their classrooms.

Chief of Schools Cindy McCabe said with a laugh that staff have found a lot of things in lockers that they didn’t want to find.

Report cards will be mailed out the week of June 15.

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Capital budget

The previous week, the Board of Education voted to approve the system’s operating, food service and debt services budgets.

The board members waited to approve the capital budget until they heard back from the county on a time question for funding an architect for East Middle School’s replacement and a roof repair for Winfield Elementary School. The county commissioners approved that funding for this year.

Jonathan O’Neal, chief of operations, and other CCPS staff have said they hoped for that outcome. They believe that having the planning underway for the East Middle project will put them in a better place to queue up for state funding on that project.

The school board expects to move forward on an architecture and engineering bid for the East Middle project at the board’s upcoming meeting on June 10 at 5 p.m.

The approved budget also sees the Career and Technology Center renovations moving ahead on schedule, with construction set to begin this summer.

The school system also plans to use some of its fund balance — in other words, reserve funds — for maintenance projects.

The order and importance of capital projects is determined by the Educational Facilities Master Plan. This 10-year planning document is updated annually, and includes information like the age and condition of facilities and the capacity and predicted future capacity of each school building.

The board will hold a virtual public hearing for the most recent EFMP on Tuesday, May 26 at 7 p.m. The proposed plan is available for review on the CCPS website at https://bit.ly/2X3CqpR. Any members of the public who want to comment or ask questions may submit them online at feedback.carrollk12.org or send a letter to the Superintendent’s Office, Carroll County Public Schools, 125 North Court Street, Westminster, MD 21157.

Input received by noon on May 26 will be shared during the hearing.

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