School is back in for the fall semester in Wicomico County, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic it will begin virtually. Superintendent Dr. Hanlin and the Wicomico County Board of Education devised multiple plans for learning before coming to the decision, taking into account the opinions and needs of parents. Much is still unknown about the COVID-19 pandemic, but Wicomico County Public Schools has a plan to navigate the state of our community and keep kids learning.
In July, Wicomico County Schools unveiled multiple models of instruction broken down by green, yellow, and red. The green model would have all students back in school for traditional learning and the red would have all students utilizing distance learning and not physically learning in schools. The yellow model is considered a hybrid model, having students use distance and in-person methods of learning, and this model continued to see development throughout July of this year.
While feedback was received from parents via survey on many potential aspects of the yellow model, the red model was ultimately decided on for the first semester of the school year. Dr. Hanlin indicated in an Aug. 11 virtual report on Wicomico County Public Schools’ Recovery Plan that the choice to begin the year in the virtual format was made, “through the work of our stakeholder committees followed by a great deal of feedback from parents and staff.”
Other factors mentioned in this plan include the unpredictability of the virus, collaboration with the local health department, health conditions that may put students and staff at risk, consistency for students, and increased professional development.
The recovery plan provides a guide for what parents and students can expect of virtual learning and more. It seems that the virtual learning of this fall semester will not be the same as this past spring when schools closed unexpectedly in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current virtual model will see educators developing and implementing daily lesson plans. Implementation of learning is broken down throughout the day depending on grade level and includes synchronous and asynchronous styles. Synchronous will take place in real time via web conference and asynchronous is learning that is not in real time and may include pre-recorded video and other assignment materials.
In addition to the way students will learn, expectations of students will differ from the past spring semester. Traditional grading with letter grades will be implemented again, as opposed to pass/fail format. Attendance will also be counted and monitored through the completely virtual implementation of instruction. Laptops and other connectivity equipment will be provided based on need to ensure all students are able to meet the updated standards.
Student accountability is increasing with this semester but so, it seems, will the support offered to students and their families. Teachers will be holding office hours and be available to connect for small group instruction and one-on-one support. The school system is providing technical support to families on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well. The recovery plan also indicates that students with certain needs may be able to access in-person specialized instruction or support by or before Oct. 1 of this year, pending safety.
As school buildings will be in use, safety measures are in place to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Self-screening tools are to be used to determine if coming to the school building is appropriate and safe. Students who have symptoms suggestive of the virus will be isolated and parents are required to pick them up within one hour. Should positive cases become evident, notifications will be made to the health department and others affected. Other safety measures include plexiglass screens in designated areas, available masks and hand sanitizer, and the use of guides and signage to support maintaining distance and sanitary practices.
For more information on class formats, resources, and other aspects of how classes will be implemented this semester, visit wcboe.org to review the recovery plan and gain updates on the new school year.