PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — Two weeks after committing to online classes until at least 2021, Prince George’s County Public Schools announced its distance learning plan Monday afternoon. The proposal includes live instruction, independent practice and Chromebooks for every student.

“I understand that there is no perfect solution,” school system CEO Monica Goldson said in letter attached to the plan. “Our next steps will be guided by our goal of protecting and enriching the entire PGCPS community.”

Students’ class schedules will be available on SchoolMax, the system’s e-learning platform, on Aug. 21. These virtual schedules will flow much like a typical school day.

Each day will start at 8 a.m. and have four periods. Elementary school students will have live lessons in all four classes. Middle and high school students will get a mixture of live and prerecorded instruction. Whether lessons are real-time or taped, teachers will take attendance during every class.

Wednesdays are scheduled supplemental days for students at all levels. Nobody will have a scheduled class on Wednesdays. Both primary and secondary school students will use the extra time for small-group work and targeted help.

Elementary School Schedule

Primary-school students will have reading and English language arts from 8 a.m. until 9 a.m. A half-hour independent practice and 10-minute break will follow.

Math is the second class of the day, starting at 9:40 a.m. and running until 10:40 a.m. A 20-minute solo work session will take students to lunch, which lasts from 11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

The third period will alternate between science and social studies. Both classes will last start at 11:30 a.m. and last an hour. No private work will follow.

Before their last class of the day, elementary school students will have 30 minutes of social and emotional learning, guidance or library time. The social and emotional learning will help students cope with the challenges of distance learning. These opportunities do not require solo work.

Students will then have one more 10-minute break before starting their final live session at 1:10 p.m. Classes in this slot will rotate daily between art, health, music and physical education. None of these classes include an individual work slot. The elementary school day ends at 2:10 p.m.

Middle And High School Schedule

Secondary school students will have an A/B Day schedule. A Days will be on Mondays and Thursdays. B Days are slated for Tuesdays and Fridays.

All classes will last one hour and have a 25-minute independent study time immediately after. Students will have a 15-minute break before their second and fourth classes of the day.

First period starts at 8 a.m. After their individual session and break, students start their second class at 9:40 a.m. They head to lunch at 11:05 a.m. after their solo work time.

Third period starts at 11:35 a.m. Following another break and private slot, secondary schoolers begin their last class at 1:15 p.m. The day wraps up at 2:40 p.m.

Equity

With classes continuing online, equity and technology become a top concern for the school system. Goldson said PGCPS will ensure every student has a small laptop, called a Chromebook, before classes resume.

The school system is also working to set up wifi hotspots for students who cannot connect to the internet at home, Goldson added. Nine parent support centers around the county will help families with technological and distance learning support.

Those centers will open on Sept. 1. They will be serve families on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Here is a list of all the parent support centers :

  • Benjamin Tasker Middle School: 4901 Collington Road, Bowie, MD 20715

  • Charles Carroll Middle School: 6130 Lamont Drive, New Carrollton, MD 20784

  • Drew Freeman Middle School: 2600 Brooks Drive, Suitland, MD 20746

  • G. James Gholson Middle School: 900 Nalley Road, Landover, MD 20785

  • Gwynn Park High School: 13800 Brandywine Road, Brandywine, MD 20613

  • High Point High School: 3601 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville, MD 20705

  • Mount Rainier Elementary School: 4011 32nd Street, Mount Rainier, MD 20712

  • Port Towns Elementary School: 4351 58th Avenue, Bladensburg, MD 20710

  • Thurgood Marshall Middle School: 4909 Brinkley Road, Temple Hills, MD 20748

Schools will continue to provide meals while students learn from home. All 206 schools will continue their free meal service two days per week, Goldson said.

Individualized Education Plan, English Learner Plan and 504 Plan meetings will continue virtually with parents. Students will have scheduled time with their teachers to meet their instructional needs. If a student’s plan calls for it, they will also have extra time with their teachers during the supplemental Wednesdays.

Sports, Activities And Child care

Career and Technical Education programs will continue online with “industry-recognized and approved resources.” Early childhood, pre-k and Montessori learning experiences will carry on virtually with age-appropriate tools. Dual enrollment opportunities will also press forward in accordance with the policies of the affiliated colleges.

The county still plans to administer its standardized tests in a digitized format. The state has not yet decided whether to continue with its testing, however.

Before and after care is not available this semester. It will reopen at 50 percent capacity whenever the school system moves into a hybrid model.

While clubs are allowed to continue virtually, sports cannot. Athletic programs will only resume when students are allowed back in school buildings.

Teachers, however, are allowed in the schools. Goldson said teachers can stream lessons from their classrooms if they choose. This option will create a comfortable environment for students and let teachers use extra resources, she said.

“We all want to have our children and our staff back in buildings the way that we used to,” Goldson said. “Unfortunately, we are not at a time where I feel comfortable that we can move forward with excellent delivery of instruction and keeping our children safe with them physically being in our buildings .”

What’s Next

Goldson will present this plan to the county board of education at its July 30 meeting on Zoom. Community members can watch the meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m., at this link. The password will be 728540. After the board approves the draft, PGCPS will submit its finalized plan to the state board of education ahead of the Aug. 14 deadline.

Students who still have their Chromebook from the spring should continue using it. New students can pick up their laptop between Aug. 1 and Aug. 15. Instructional packets and school supplies will also be available for pickup on those days. The school system has not yet announced where students should collect their materials.

Classes begin on Aug. 31. Distance learning will continue until at least Jan. 29, which marks the end of the first semester.

Goldson will update the county on her plans for the second semester on Dec. 1. If she deems in-person schooling safe and appropriate, parents will have the chance to opt into a hybrid model for the final two marking periods.

Under the hybrid option, students would attend in-person classes twice per week and continue with online classes for the remaining three days. If implemented, the hybrid model would start on Feb. 1, which is the first day of the third marking period. Students can continue with full-time distance learning if they choose.

Regardless of their decision, families must fill out a form between Dec. 1 and Dec. 18 telling PGCPS which method their student will follow. The school system will not offer fully in-person classes until at least the 2020-2021 school year, Goldson said.

How We Got Here

Goldson announced the move online on July 15, a day after the state teachers’ union and PTA said they prefer to start the fall semester virtually. Prince George’s County was the second in Maryland to commit to starting the school year online. Montgomery County was the first.

Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Charles County, Harford County, Howard County and Washington County have since said they will start the year virtually. Somerset County agreed in principle to start the school year online, but its board of education has not yet finalized its plan.

Prince George’s County schools have been closed since the state superintendent, Karen Salmon, shut down all Maryland public schools in March. Maryland schools may now reopen, but only with if their jurisdiction permits. All schools must submit their plans to the state board of education for approval before Aug. 14.

The 21,770 coronavirus infections in Prince George’s County continue to be the most in the state. More than 700 county residents have died from the virus

“Prince George’s County Public Schools and our county is the epicenter for COVID-19,” Goldson said at a press conference earlier this month.

Goldson held a telephone town hall to discuss the updates with families and community members on July 15. Employees had their own session the next day.

Before deciding to continue with online classes, the school system sent out a survey to parents, teachers, administration and community members asking how they would prefer to proceed. The results left PGCPS with three options.

The county was in the process of deciding whether to return to in-person schooling, offer a hybrid model or continue with distance learning. Nearly 18,000 people gave their input through the questionnaire. Survey respondents preferred hybrid and distance models over the in-person option.

Distance learning was the most popular model, registering 46 percent of the vote. The hybrid option was not far behind, with 42 percent of respondents preferring this method. The final 12 percent of people wanted to return to in-person instruction.

PGCPS will follow “strict preventative measures” whenever the school system reopens, Goldson said in a press release.

“This is no easy task,” Goldson said. “There are many factors to consider and many decisions to be made in a short amount of time.”

Teacher responsiveness to students’ questions, maintaining social distancing and requiring masks for all students and staff were top priorities for more than 70 percent of those surveyed. The survey also suggested that most people thought PGCPS communicated and taught well during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I understand your concerns about any scenario and we will work through them together,” Goldson said.

The latest coronavirus updates from PGCPS are available here.

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This article originally appeared on the Bowie Patch