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Howard County schools plan to begin limited in-person support for some students

The Howard County Public School System announced Thursday that it is gearing up to provide limited in-person instruction for the students who most need it.

While the school system is continuing virtual learning through at least January, some students are expected to be offered limited face-to-face programs in the next few weeks. The different programs will be phased in over the next two months, according to schools Superintendent Michael Martirano.

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The in-person programs will be for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, students receiving mental health and behavioral supports, students with additional barriers to virtual learning attendance, as well as other students in need.

“Fully virtual instruction, as we know, is not ideal for any student,” Martirano said during the Sept. 10 Board of Education meeting. “But we recognize that some students are disproportionately impacted and need the kind of support best provided in an in-person mode.”

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The programs can either be half-day or full-day, depending on the needs of the students. Some of the programs, like in-person support for students in the Teenage Parenting and Childcare Program — which provides resources and services for students who are teen parents to help them graduate — will begin next week, while school-based special education programs are expected to be implemented in November.

The program for students with barriers to attendance and those especially struggling with virtual learning — called school-based learning centers — will begin the last week of September. Staff will assist students in the learning centers with logging into live virtual instruction, and students also will have support staff like counselors and liaisons.

“This small-group support effort is tightly aligned to our agenda of equity, and I intend to explore anything we can do to safely offer supports for our students who need them during this time,” Martirano said last week.

Each school will identify students for the programs and will reach out to families in the coming weeks. Based on student participation, the school system will survey and recruit staff to support the programs on a volunteer basis. If a school doesn’t have enough staff for a program, it will not be offered at that school, and some students could be moved to another school for the program.

Schools will choose students for the programs based on several factors, including financial needs, homelessness, poor attendance or achievement in the spring, and a lack of internet access.

“While we know many students would benefit from face-to-face instructional support, we will identify the students who we believe need them the most,” Martirano said last week.

Transportation will be offered for students in the programs, and masks must be worn by all students and staff.

Here is a full list of in-person programs the school system will be rolling out in the next two months:

  • Cedar Lane School, K-12 classrooms: For students with significant disabilities who require ongoing support
  • Cedar Lane School — transitioning youth ages 18 to 21: Providing consistent routines for students to develop and maintain skills necessary to transition to adult life
  • Cornerstone and structured environment for active learners at Cedar Lane School: For students with significant disabilities who require ongoing support
  • Elementary regional special education programs: For students with extensive needs and who require intensive services
  • High School ALS — transitioning youth ages 18 to 21: Maximizing time for students to develop critical skills for life after school
  • Homewood Bridges Program: Providing an early transition to a hybrid model with counseling and academic assistance
  • Infant and Toddler Program: Providing individualized, direct coaching sessions that include parents/caregivers and their children in school buildings
  • In-person family conferencing: For those where virtual meetings and phone calls have not been successful
  • Middle and high school specialized programs: For students who need additional services to support academic, behavioral and social success
  • Regional early childhood programs: For students who require access to intensive and structured teaching
  • School-based learning centers
  • Students receiving resource room services: For students who receive specially designed instruction for mild/moderate disabilities
  • Teenage Parenting and Childcare Program

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