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Carroll County Public Schools’ recovery plan underway amid grade decline. ‘Always looking for ways to help students now,’ superintendent says.

Measures undertaken to help with student recovery were already underway at Carroll County Public Schools when data showing those with failing grades had tripled in the second quarter compared with the same period last school year, a circumstance attributed to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Learning environments have changed dramatically this school year and last, and the number of students who received F’s indicate many students have struggled to adapt to fully or partially virtual instruction. However, the school system has already taken steps designed to place students on the path to recovery.

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During the first quarter, Sept. 8 to Nov. 11, students were more than five times as likely to receive a failing grade as they were a year ago, with approximately 6,000 more failing letter grades, or F’s, given out compared with the first quarter from the 2019-20 school year.

CCPS provided the Times with a breakdown of second quarter grades Tuesday. The quarter ran from Nov. 12 through Jan. 29. During that time, 3,313 students received at least one F, according to the CCPS data, while 2,939 students received at least one F during the first quarter. Last school year, 952 students received at least one F during the second quarter and about 61% of the students who received at least one F during the second quarter were hybrid learners.

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“There is no doubt that we have a contingent number of students that are struggling,” Jason Anderson, the school system’s chief academic, equity and accountability officer, said in an interview earlier this week.

Superintendent Steve Lockard said they anticipate more than 2,000 special education students to qualify for compensatory services and another 3,000 being invited for academic recovery, credit recovery or extended school year services.

CCPS staff recently announced that 80 10-month staff will be converted to 11-month staff to help with recovery services at a cost of $600,000. And the board of education voted to allow all students to return to classes at least four days a week.

The superintendent said during a Feb. 3 meeting that staff will soon present a recovery plan to the board. He said in an email on Friday they already began sharing a preliminary plan with board members. Some of the plans include credit recovery for high school in the spring, a large scale recovery and compensatory services this summer in-person and possibly with virtual learning options.

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“At the March board meeting, the team will begin to illustrate what recovery, credit recovery, compensatory services and [extended school year] will look like this summer into the next academic year,” he said in an email. “At the subsequent board meetings, staff will continue to provide updates to the number of students who have accepted invitations to the voluntary service, the number of staff, and locations.”

Lockard said credit recovery started this semester and will continue in July and August. The goal is to offer services at as many locations as possible, he said. He added that they want to continue providing services in the next school year.

“Don’t forget that teachers and staff each and every day are always looking for ways to help students now — that may be through additional opportunities for support in person/virtually or other ways in which they are trying to help struggling students,” he said. “However, the bulk of our planning is for work over the summer and into next year.”

The superintendent said during the Feb. 3 meeting that recovery could last between 18 months and two years. And recovery costs could be in the millions. After talks about funding recovery, the board approved a budget Feb. 10 that requested $209.8 million from the county, which is $5.2 million more than what the superintendent initially requested from them and $11.4 million more than what was received from the county for fiscal 2021.

CCPS has worked on both a recovery plan that will be presented in March, and a return plan that will be discussed at the Feb. 24 board meeting.

In response to an interview request, board president Marsha Herbert said Lockard responded for the both of them.

Lockard said he and staff know many students struggle with virtual learning due to lack of engagement.

“One way to engage them is to see them more face to face,” he said in an email. “The more opportunities our students have to attend in person, we believe will help engage and support those students who are struggling.”

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