What Could The Fall Look Like?

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We’ve just finished a school year like no other in modern history. Instead of all the celebrations that accompany the usual end of a school year, I drove to my child’s elementary school, held up a sign with her name on it, and collected the items she left behind when schools abruptly shuttered on March 13.

E-learning not only presented a learning curve for my child, but I had to navigate the new (to me) world of Google Classroom, Google Meet, Wixie, Discovery Education and other apps that became the mainstay of her education for 14 weeks. In the end, I believe my daughter and I made the best of a less than ideal situation. I have an immense amount of gratitude for her teachers and everyone who had a hand in developing the lessons she completed.

That was the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. Filled with uncertainty as we all waited with bated breath for the next announcement about school operations, we did our best to educate from home. With it not meant to be a long-term solution, I know we all did our part to be as positive as possible to embrace e-learning.

That was then, but what about the fall? What will school look like for 85,000-plus children AACPS serves?

The final decision makers are the State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Karen Salmon, in coordination with Governor Larry Hogan after substantial conversations with health experts. While school systems might be given some bandwidth to choose how best to implement whatever the state decides, AACPS and every other school system in the state of Maryland cannot scribble outside the lines of their decisions. Teachers, administrators and parents all need as much time as possible to plan, and I am hopeful that we will hear a definitive decision from the state soon.

To prepare for all possible scenarios we could face, Dr. George Arlotto has convened a reopening steering committee and 14 subcommittees to tackle every aspect of a student’s educational experience. The role of the steering committee is to provide the charges to the working committees, gather and synthesize committee work, make preliminary decisions and bring strongest workgroup options to the superintendent for a final decision.

The role of the working committees is to perform the work charged by the steering committee, and provide data-based information and recommendations to the steering committee. The working committees will focus on the whole student, infrastructure and community perspectives as overarching themes.

Working committee topics include:

  • Equity
  •  Academics
  • Student Services
  • Special Education
  •  Athletics, Performing Arts, & Co-Curriculars
  •  Instructional Data & Instructional Technology
  • HR & Employee Relations
  • Safety & Security
  •  Facilities
  •  Technology
  •  Food and Nutrition Services & Pupil Transportation
  •  Communications
  •  Child Care
  •  Community Partnerships

The 14 working committees are composed of AACPS employees, students, parents, AACPS bargaining unit members, AACPS advisory group members, community organizations and community partners. The steering committee and chairs of the each of the committees are AACPS senior staff members.

Additionally, all parents and guardians of AACPS students were just tasked to fill out a survey querying their reopening preferences. I hope each of you took the time to fill out the survey as it will provide Dr. Arlotto and the Board of Education with helpful information that will guide implementation within the confines of what the state will allow.

While I know we all want school to return to normal, we must be prepared for any number of other scenarios. These scenarios could include partial days, partial weeks, and continued e-learning. It is unclear whether or how athletics, music programs, co-curricular clubs or afterschool enrichment programs will occur. Pupil transportation and routing will be affected and will be subject to new health guidelines. Our students will need increased academic and mental health supports. Even lunchtime could look different in the fall than it was in the past. Regardless of the school schedule implemented in the fall, student and staff safety will be paramount.

I encourage each of you to continue to share your concerns and ideas with me and my colleagues. As always, I can be reached at dschallheim@aacps.org.

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