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Harford County leaders, parents will take part in news conference Thursday on HCPS’ virtual start to school year

Harford County parents, local elected officials and the county’s state lawmakers will discuss, during a press conference Thursday morning, how Harford County Public Schools’ plans to have virtual classes for students in the coming academic year could affect the community.

The school system, which serves more than 38,000 students, plans a virtual start for the first semester of the 2020-21 school year, which begins next Tuesday. Teachers will conduct their classes live online, and students will take in those lessons either at home or in Learning Support Centers set up for students who need reliable internet service and a safe place to be during the school day.

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The plan, which is meant to keep HCPS students and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, has sparked a backlash from a number of parents and elected officials who want schools to either partially or fully reopen. Lessons were delivered online — without synchronous interaction between teachers and students — when schools closed in mid-March, and many parents have filed comments with the Board of Education about the toll the isolation took on their children, especially students with special needs.

The news conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at Red Pump Elementary School in Bel Air, according to a news release sent from the office of Republican Del. Mike Griffith on Tuesday. Participants include local parents, County Councilman Chad Shrodes, who represents northern Harford, Republican state Dels. Mike Griffith, Susan McComas and Kathy Szeliga, plus state Sen. Jason Gallion, also a Republican, according to the release.

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