Carroll County’s school board is set to vote on a plan to use up to eight school days this year as virtual days of instruction.
The school board will meet at 5 p.m., Wednesday, for its regular monthly public meeting at the Carroll County Public Schools office building, 125 N. Court St., Westminster.
Schools Superintendent Cynthia McCabe will officially request approval from the Maryland State Department of Education to repurpose certain days as virtual school days, pending approval from the school board. The plan was discussed at the school board’s July meeting, and two board members expressed support for it.
“I do really like this plan as it is laid out; I think it takes into account a lot of the concerns and feedback we have seen from the community over the last year,” school board member Donna Sivigny said at the board meeting in July. “It’s a really good compromise. I am very much in favor of this.”
Jonathan O’Neal, assistant superintendent of administration, gave a brief presentation outlining the plan at the board’s meeting in July.
The state Department of Education opened a pathway this year for local school systems to instruct students online instead of in person, O’Neal said, responding to experience with virtual instruction during pandemic-related shutdowns. The state will allow schools to use virtual instruction days to replace snow or other inclement weather days, on staff professional learning days, on high school graduation days (to enable teachers to assist with or attend graduation), or for other similar circumstances.
At least five of the virtual learning days must include live instruction; the other three may be asynchronous, or initiated by students outside the allotted time, according to the state Department of Education.
In the Carroll County Public Schools plan, the superintendent proposes using one asynchronous virtual day per school area for each scheduled high school graduation day. McCabe also proposed using synchronous virtual days for inclement weather days that occur beyond the four days built into the 2022-23 calendar.
In other words, students and staff will still get a day off from school the first four times snow or other bad weather causes schools to close. Any days beyond those four would require synchronous virtual days of instruction.
Sivigny praised this part of the plan, saying, “It still allows kids to be kids for a couple days each year,” and would allow the school system to “end on the day we anticipate ending ... and not mess up travel plans any families may make for the summer.”
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School board member Tara Battaglia also voiced support for the plan, saying “I am glad [the state Department of Education] is doing it.”
In advance of virtual days being used, schools will remind students, staff and parents via electronic communication.
According to the application, Carroll schools implemented a one-to-one laptop program for all students in grades 3-12, and any student who requires assistive technology devices will have access to their assistive technology devices on virtual days.
On asynchronous days, students will be given “ample opportunity to make up any missed work,” according to the plan, but any student who does not complete or make up the required work “will be coded absent for the day.”
Sivigny asked whether “ample” should be defined more clearly. McCabe said the time students are given to complete work would vary depending on the teacher and the grade level.
The Carroll County Public Schools Virtual Day Instruction Plan was submitted for public comment after the July meeting, and will be voted on during Wednesday night’s board meeting before it is submitted for approval by the state.
Carroll County Board of Education meetings are generally held on the second Wednesday of each month. They are streamed live on the CCPS YouTube channel and can be viewed on Carroll Educational Television – Channel 21.