The end is in sight! I doubt anyone will disagree that this year has been challenging. Challenging for students. Challenging for parents. Challenging for teachers and staff. We started this year with so many unknowns about COVID-19 and a lot of questions about how school would resume.
Back in September 2020, the Maryland State Department of Education mandated a daily average of 3.5 hours of live, synchronous instruction and we were off the races with a fully virtual program. This fact was the predominate factor when developing all iterations of daily class schedules. The prescribed daily synchronous instruction mandate did not change when we moved to a hybrid model in early spring at the end of the winter COVID-19 spike. The hybrid model attempted to balance the mandate of the state with two groups of students, one learning in person and the other from home.
This entire year has been a balance of hours of screen time, breaks from screen time, developing relationships with classmates and teachers over Google Meet, equitable access across all student groups to meals at lunch, and the needs of every student regardless of location. No, it hasn’t been pretty, and the hybrid plan was often referred to as “messy” by both the Board of Education and Dr. George Arlotto. We have all navigated arguably the most complex, unique, and stressful school year in modern history during a once-in-a-century pandemic with no road map and ever-changing guidance from the state, Centers for Disease Control and our county health officer.
This is not an excuse or a deflection. Hindsight is always 20/20 and certainly, if given the chance to redo this year, I am sure all of us would have done things differently. What is more important now is moving forward for our students and ourselves, while applying the lessons learned from the pandemic to closing achievement and opportunity gaps and improving educational outcomes for all students. To that end, my board colleagues brought forward two motions, which I supported, during the May 20, 2021 meeting of the Board of Education. These motions addressed increasing in-person instruction for the remainder of this school year and to set expectations for a full return to five days of in-person instruction next school year.
I am hopeful recent board actions will bring some relief to our students and families both in terms of increasing the potential for more in-person instruction during the last days of this this academic year and reinforce our commitment for a more "normal" 2021-2022 school year.
While no one can look into a crystal ball and foresee where COVID will be in the fall, I voted in favor of a full return to school, hopeful that COVID-19 and all its variants will not spike again and that our case rate remains low. CDC guidance for how schools should operate during this pandemic has been just that, guidance. While safety has always been our chief concern, with or without a pandemic, I am confident that our school system will continue to keep COVID-19 at bay in our schools via a combination of mitigation strategies employed at every school. I look forward to a time when all COVID-19 lingo can be used in the past tense and am delighted that our plans for full, in-person instruction are in full swing. Happy summer everyone and congratulations to the class of 2021!