Caroline schools prepare for different school opening scenarios

DENTON — In accordance with the Maryland State Department of Education’s requirements to prepare for school in the fall, Caroline County has conducted the first of two parent/stakeholder surveys to help guide the final Recovery Plan. The first survey closed on July 8, and the second will be conducted at the beginning of August. According to MSDE, the Recovery Plan must be made available by Aug. 14.

The plan details the resources and requirements guiding the final plan, which includes a Recovery Plan Stakeholder Group that has been meeting throughout the spring and summer. The Caroline County Board of Education discussed the extensive planning required by every area of CCPS, and the various instructional plans to be implemented, based on the direction of MSDE and the COVID-19 spread. Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens announced during the June 30 board meeting the final Recovery Plan should be ready for publication and distribution in early August.

Areas for consideration include not only instruction for students, but also transportation, maintenance, food services, attendance, athletics, health services, and communication and technology. The state has directed that an equity plan be reflected throughout any Recovery Plan decisions and follow all procedures and safety protocols developed by MSDE, the state Department of Health, and the CDC.

Provisions also must be made for those students requiring assistance under IDEA, 504 plans, and the ADA.

There are four proposed plans based on the spread of COVID-19. In a substantial spread or concern for spread, Plan A would be comprised of comprehensive distance learning at home. Plan B, addresses a minimal to moderate risk of spread and includes a blending of in-school instruction supplemented by distance learning. This plan might incorporate staggered schedules for students.

With Plan C and the risk of spread being low or none, students may return to a normal schedule, but with provisions for special populations. Plan D is a normal pre-COVID-19 routine and would rely on the spread of the virus being none due to an available vaccine.

CCPS is exploring the possibility of distance learning on a platform outside CCPS in a partnership with all Eastern Shore school systems, and MSDE working with certified teachers who are not CCPS employees. Another option that could be available is distance learning with CCPS teachers — either full-time or hybrid, depending on the selected plan.

Under Plan B, students in group A would might attend school on Monday and Tuesday, and work from home via distance learning on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Students in group B would have the reverse schedule — attending school on Thursday and Friday and participating in distance learning Monday through Wednesday.

School officials in Caroline County have been awaiting the decision from the state on whether or not school buildings in Maryland can open. Were school buildings not permitted to open, all school systems must implement distance learning — local Plan A.

If MSDE says school buildings may open, the decision will be made locally by CCPS to determine which plan to implement based on local spread and in consultation with health care officials. Regardless, schools must be prepared to move between plans based on directives from the state on opening or closing buildings.

Saelens stressed the importance of families keeping their email information up-to-date with the schools and closely monitoring emails that will be the primary method of communication throughout the summer.

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