NEWARK – Local education officials agreed this week to modify the school calendar as facilities remain closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Worcester County Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to adjust the calendar as recommended by Superintendent Lou Taylor. The spring break that was set for April 6-13 has been adjusted to April 10-14 and the tentative last day of school is now planned for June 11.
“Our spring break we will use as continuity of instruction days,” Taylor said, adding that students would still be off Good Friday and Easter Monday. “That is the big ask today.”
In a meeting held via conference call Tuesday, Taylor updated the board on actions underway now that schools were engaged in a continuity of learning in spite of the fact that social distancing is still in place and educational facilities are closed. Taylor said advanced placement and dual enrollment students began online learning Monday while high school students would begin virtual classes Wednesday. Elementary, intermediate and middle school students have lessons resume Monday, April 6. Taylor said administrators and teachers had been engaged in professional development in recent days.
“One hundred percent of our employees have been cooperative,” Taylor said.
He added that the lack of internet access throughout all parts of the county was a problem but said the school system had 180 mobile hotspots to distribute. Community groups have also offered to help purchase more.
“That’s something that’s been amazing but not shocking,” Taylor said. “I know how people rally in our county.”
Taylor said educators were prepared to focus on continuity of instruction online until they were advised otherwise by the state.
“We feel very good about where we are considering the times we are living in,” he said.
Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs, said the county would be seeking a waiver to the 180-day requirement regarding the state mandated closure from March 16-27. She said that instead of the lengthy spring break originally planned the school system would engage in continuity of learning, closing only on April 10, 13 and 14. While school is closed to students April 14 that will be a professional development day for teachers.
If the waiver is granted, the school year would tentatively end June 11. If it is not granted, the last day for students would likely be June 25.
When asked about the likelihood of the state granting the 10-day waiver for March 16-27, Taylor said he couldn’t speculate. He said the issue had been brought up with State Superintendent Karen Salmon by each of Maryland’s counties but that she’d given no indication whether it would be granted or not.
“She has told us she understands where we are with that request,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of resuming normal school activities after April 24, which at this point is the date to which schools are mandated closed, Taylor said all he could do was hope.
“I have hope this will clear up and we’re back in the buildings as soon as possible,” he said.