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Harford County can do more for its public school students | READER COMMENTARY

The coronavirus-forced closures of public schools and the need to move to distance learning online has highlighted how far behind Harford County's school system is as it related to digital learning, Superintendent Sean Bulson has said.
The coronavirus-forced closures of public schools and the need to move to distance learning online has highlighted how far behind Harford County's school system is as it related to digital learning, Superintendent Sean Bulson has said. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

As a parent of children in the Harford County Public School system disappointed by the inability of the county’s school board to find novel solutions to an unprecedented problem (“Harford school board waives graduation requirements, grade promotion, other policies as it grapples with coronavirus impacts,” April 8), I have to ask, why? Why can’t Superintendent Sean Bulson and the board find a way to provide online instruction to the 40,000 students in the county and capitalize on the ubiquity of resources of this moment?

Teachers are standing by. Parents are at home with their children. And students are given busy work to occupy their time. The constraint that has been posed is that not all students in the county have access to technology. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 92% of households in Harford County have a computer. For those without, it should be possible to purchase adequate devices such as Carroll, Frederick, Prince George’s, Talbot, Washington and Wicomico counties are doing.

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The budget doesn’t allow for that? What about the savings of fuel for school buses which in a recent school budget was $945,000? That money is reserved for future use? What about expanding the distance from school that students must walk? Or perhaps have families donate old laptops or lend extra ones? Or perhaps have a special fundraising campaign in which residents (with a median income of over $80,000) pledge their government-issued coronavirus stimulus checks? Or have families use half of the $500 stimulus check received for each child to purchase their own Chromebook (and possibly pledge the other half for another student)?

What about the 13.4% percent of households without broadband Internet service? Perhaps Comcast would provide free access as they have in Montgomery and Calvert counties? Or if need be, provide free Internet access to the school system’s Internet wifi from the school parking lots, as Caroline County is doing. Not an ideal situation, but a solution.

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This is a time in which “out-of-the-box” thinking is needed more than ever. We will not see a solution appearing over the horizon unless we create and implement one. The Harford County Board of Education and Dr. Bulson are giving themselves an “out” by unanimous passage of a waiver of graduation requirements (and requirements for promotion to the next grade) only lessens the pressure on them to produce results. We all know the likelihood of schools returning to normal before the fall. So, will the required school year of 180 days be reduced to 150 days, at the students’ loss?

The current situation of giving students busy work with no coverage of new material is a poor solution. I think Harford County can do better.

Charles Dierbach, Bel Air

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