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Harford schools flesh out details on student schedules, in-person learning centers in revised plan for fall

Details about a Harford County Public Schools student’s average day will go in a virtual learning environment, how in-person Learning Support Centers will operate, health and safety guidelines and other aspects of the 2020-21 school year, are included in the most-recent version of HCPS’ Continuity of Learning Plan.

School system leaders are still fleshing out many aspects of next year, during which the roughly 38,000 students will spend the first semester taking classes online to better protect students, teachers and staff from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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An updated draft of the plan was released Thursday evening and can be viewed online through the school system’s HCPStogether web page. The final version is scheduled to be presented to the Board of Education during its Aug. 10 meeting and submitted to the state by Aug. 14 — the next school year begins Sept. 8.

Sample schedules for a virtual school day at the elementary, middle and high school levels, for Monday through Friday, are included in the updated plan.

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Elementary students are in class Monday through Thursday, and they start each day with a class meeting that runs 10 to 15 minutes for pre-K and kindergarten children, 15 to 20 minutes for first and second-graders and 30 minutes for third through fifth-graders.

The students then have three class periods, with a varied schedule each day. Their classes include math, reading/language arts, science, social studies, art and physical education. They then end the school day with a period for group work. The Monday-to-Thursday classes are conducted in a “synchronous learning” format, meaning teachers interact with students in real time through the online learning network, according to the plan.

Fridays, for elementary students, are dedicated to “asynchronous lessons” in math, reading, writing, arts and PE — asynchronous learning means the students and teachers do not interact live online, but the students complete assignments involving materials such as videos or reading selections, according to the plan.

Middle schoolers’ days will be divided into six class periods, with Monday through Thursday dedicated to coursework. Fridays include time for teachers to hold office hours and work with students as well as complete lesson plans and professional development, plus a period for “small group instruction” with students and asynchronous lessons.

High school students have four class periods, with coursework Monday through Thursday, and Fridays set aside for teacher training, office hours, small group work and asynchronous learning, according to the sample schedule.


While all classes will be taught online, with teachers working remotely, HCPS is making limited space available with Learning Support Centers established in its 54 school buildings. Those centers will serve as a safe place outside the home — with staff supervision, internet access, meals and child care for elementary school pupils before and after the school day — for students who need it.

School system leaders are gathering information about the level of interest in the learning centers. A Parent Intentions Form is available online, and anybody who wants to use the learning center, or needs to provide any other information about their child’s needs for next year, should fill out the form by Tuesday.

Students who spend their days in the Learning Support Centers will be supervised by an HCPS staffer while their teachers hold classes remotely, and the staff member can provide in-person assistance to the students if needed.

A typical school day for elementary students runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those on a fourth-tier busing schedule.

The school system is also trying to determine if before- and after-care would be made available at the elementary school learning centers. If so, before-care would likely be available starting at 7 a.m. and after-care until 6 p.m., according to the revised plan.

Middle school students at the learning centers would have classes from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and high schoolers from 7:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.

All students will have a one-hour lunch break from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. each day.

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Students also will have access to meals on site and bus transportation to and from the learning centers. The number of children who can ride a bus will be limited to 22, with one student per seat, although siblings can sit together. Buses have a maximum capacity of 64 students. The children must wear face coverings while on the bus, according to the plan.

People also must wear masks when in the learning centers or other HCPS buildings, and they must follow guidelines for social distancing. Students must wash their hands, and staff will clean and disinfect buses and buildings on a regular basis.

This story may be updated.

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