4 Hours Of Synchronous Learning Planned For Inclement Weather Days

4 Hours Of Synchronous Learning Planned For Inclement Weather Days
A snowy scene is pictured in Ocean City earlier this month. Photo by Chris Parypa

NEWARK– The school system has adjusted its distance learning plan for inclement weather days after receiving guidance from the state.

While Worcester County Public Schools (WCPS) announced early on that inclement weather days beyond the three built into the calendar would be distance learning days, changes to what students can expect – including the addition of four hours of synchronous learning – were shared this week. Annette Wallace, the school system’s chief operating and academic officer for grades 9-12, said requirements from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), which has to approve the school system’s distance learning plan for inclement weather, prompted the change.

“We feel really positive about it,” she said. “We hope to submit it this week to MSDE.”

Though WCPS initially told parents they could expect distance learning for inclement weather if the school system’s built-in inclement weather days were used, they said the state advised them Jan. 14 of requirements for any distance learning days. Those requirements include four hours of synchronous – essentially live – instruction and that the distance learning plan be presented in advance to the local school board. With potential snow on the horizon, Wallace said WCPS was presenting the board with its plan this week.

She pointed out that officials knew synchronous learning was a challenge.

“As all of you know, throughout this pandemic we’ve had a lot of discussion around number one, lack of devices, but specifically number two, lack of high quality internet access throughout our county,” she said. “Even giving out hotspots doesn’t work.”

To combat the issue, she said WCPS would make sure that there was a phone number associated with all Zoom lessons so even without internet access students could participate.

“The student will not need a smart device in order to two-way communicate using that phone number,” she said.

As part of the plan students with special needs will receive their regular services, even if they have to be made up after the fact. WCPS has also set aside funds for tutoring to support students who have trouble with distance learning.

Superintendent Lou Taylor said WCPS was doing the best it could with the new requirements.

“This has caused a lot of dialogue, I’ll use a nice word, between the 24 superintendents in Maryland,” he said. “There’s been not really a clear expectation and many superintendents are very frustrated with what to do, when to do it and how to do it.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.