Full Fall Return Eyed For Wicomico Schools

SALISBURY –  Education officials say additional information will be provided in the coming weeks as the school system plans its return to full, in-person instruction this fall.

On Tuesday, the Wicomico County Board of Education voted to accept Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin’s plan for a full fall return.

In her presentation this week, Hanlin said the school system’s return to five days of traditional instruction aligns with the Maryland State Board of Education’s resolution calling on schools to reopen for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“We clearly are committed to equity for students and understand the need to recover learning loss and social-emotional loss,” she said. “Hybrid scheduling and concurrent teaching models are definitely not in the best interest of students.”

Late last month, the state board issued a resolution calling on local boards of education to permit all students to attend school for at least 180 school days and a minimum of 1,080 school hours for in-person instruction this fall. Any deviation would require state board approval.

Hanlin told board members this week she was seeking their approval to move forward with plans for the coming school year.

“As you know we do have some families who continue to be concerned about returning, so I believe it’s also important to allow for a virtual option,” she said. “We have learned through some preliminary analysis, survey of parents, that we have about 3% of our population who at this point are interested in a virtual option because they don’t feel safe returning or because they thrived in the virtual environment.”

For those students, Hanlin said, the school system would seek commitments from families who wish to remain virtual. She noted those students would be examined to ensure they can be successful in a virtual environment.

“No teacher would teach concurrently,” Hanlin added. “The vast majority of our teachers will be teaching face-to-face. But we will assign a few teachers, based upon the numbers who want a virtual option, to teach virtually.”

Board President Gene Malone said it was ultimately up to families to choose an instruction model.

“It’s the student’s choice, the family’s choice,” he said. “If everybody wants to come back five days, and we’re able to do that, they can come back five days.”

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Rick Briggs said additional information would be provided in the coming weeks.

“As soon as possible, we will share additional details before asking anybody to make a firm commitment,” he said.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.