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Jensen: Virtual learning not a disaster, just the best option amid difficult circumstances | COMMENTARY

I’d like to respond to the Aug. 13 guest Community Voices column in which Doug Howard’s opinion that “virtual learning is a disaster” is just that — certainly not based on facts, or information that has been related and shared at the various Board of Education meetings, where so much data was shared and reviewed.

No one will argue that virtual learning was a great success for every student. One size does not fit all when it comes to education, and few, if any, teachers in Carroll County would try to tell you otherwise. We are all keenly aware of the shortcomings of this type of service delivery. However, we also recognized some significant achievements made by some students with this type of learning environment. For Howard to write he would “rather see the school year postponed….” is irresponsible. If he thinks virtual learning is a disaster, how could postponement of learning be anything than just that?

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He wrote, “…. and no hands-on experiences is just fine …” Who said that, Mr. Howard? Did you actually listen to the entire last few BOE meetings, where the board members and other professionals shared their information, data, thoughts and feelings? Many expressions of concern over starting the school year with virtual learning were shared. In the end, after consideration from these many sources, the board made the most difficult decision of starting the school year virtually.

While concerns were shared by the Carroll County Education Association, so were those of Carroll County citizens, which included parents and other organizations. No one’s opinions or ideas were “quickly dismissed once the union demands became the primary concern…” Thank you for giving the CCEA so much credit. As you know, we are a collective voice, and reflect the thinking, ideas, opinions, and factual information gathered, of many of the teachers/school employees in this county. The teachers’ union allows us to have a voice, to express our opinions, just as Howard (“a parent, business owner, and former elected official”) had/has his platforms to express his.

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As to his point, “There is certainly no risk to teaching in an empty room ... this should be required,” did he listen to the entire discussion of the BOE meeting on Aug. 12? Based on what research did Howard make the assertion that there is no risk? Did he consult with County Health Official Ed Singer?

Did Howard miss the propositions of having small groups of students of special education and career and tech students starting back into the buildings? Did he not see the proposed hybrid plan, that the board hopes to implement, in accordance with the governor’s stages plan, which proposes “certain students, certain classes, certain days…” in buildings? When did anyone say they were “waiting for COVID-19 to be ‘over’” before restarting schools fully? The BOE meetings I have watched are considering the governor’s plan, as well as a wealth of other data and factual resources to make determinations as to when students return to school buildings.

Howard’s opinion is that the school board is made of “hand chosen” members. I do believe those people are elected by people of the entire county! The Board has not “told the community to educate our children at home.” It was a very difficult and involved process, with lots of information, considerations, deliberations and determinations to come to the decision they did. Many of the people Howard entreats in his column are parents. Did he forget that many of the parents in this county are also teachers? This is not an easy situation for them to be in either! Did he think that many teachers would rather be working from home rather than their classrooms? The teachers I have been in communication with are excited to be given the opportunity to teach from their classrooms! Perhaps he chose not to consider the several surveys that the BOE submitted to CCPS staff, as well as community members, that the BOE took into consideration in their decision?

Sadly, there were so many opinions Howard asserted which were not supported with factual information. As he is a “parent, business owner and former elected official,” I expected better.

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Melanie Jensen is a CCPS teacher who writes from Eldersburg.

For any member of the community who would like to submit a guest community voices column for publication consideration, it should be approximately 700 words and sent to bob.blubaugh@carrollcountytimes.com.

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