From Harford County Public Schools:
Dear Harford County Public Schools Community,
Last week, Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) released the Draft Recovery Plan for opening the 2020-2021 school year and presented the plan publicly at the July 13 Board of Education meeting. Since the release of the plan, community stakeholders provided extensive feedback with the majority of messages falling into two distinct groups: (1) those who support opening schools to in-person learning, and (2) those who support a fully distance-learning environment due to safety concerns.
There is general agreement that safe, in-person learning would be the first preference, but the current conditions make it impossible for large groups of students to be in school at one time. Based on this feedback, we determined the hybrid model in the Draft Recovery Plan does not allow our students and staff to adequately practice social distancing, and it creates an insurmountable logistical challenge for parents in many cases. Additionally, due to several health and safety concerns, many of our educators may not be able to be present for an in-person model which would have impacted our ability to provide adequate supervision and instruction.
Subsequently, HCPS will be implementing a modified plan that relies exclusively on virtual learning while providing opportunities for students who need a safe, supervised place during the school day. All instruction during the first semester will be virtual. Chromebooks will be provided for all students in grades K-8, and Windows-based laptops will be provided for all students in grades 9-12. All teachers will receive a Windows-based laptop. HCPS is currently undertaking trials of cellular hotspots throughout the county, to provide Internet access to all students. In addition, we are making dramatic upgrades to our curriculum and professional development to ensure virtual instruction is more interactive and engaging than during the Spring of 2020.
To address the needs of students who require a safe place to spend the school day, we are offering a limited number of spaces in HCPS Learning Support Centers at each of our schools where students will be supervised by an HCPS employee and have reliable access to the Internet. While attending the HCPS Learning Support Centers, students will receive virtual instruction from their teacher working from a remote location. These students will have access to bus transportation and Food and Nutrition services.
Next week, we will send an Intentions Survey to all families asking who will be interested in having their children attend HCPS Learning Support Centers in the Fall. Prior to finalizing this plan, HCPS will have to weigh demand for attending the HCPS Learning Support Centers against our capacity to staff them safely. An infographic with additional details about the HCPS Virtual Learning and the HCPS Learning Support Centers is attached to this message.
This evening, HCPS is hosting a Parent Academy Town Hall to provide an opportunity for parents and community members to engage in a more robust conversation about the details of this plan. Please join us from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on-line. You can access the event at this link.
Our ultimate goal is for every student to return to in-person learning as soon as safety allows. We have been fortunate that Harford County has experienced the lowest infection rate among the large counties in Maryland. Our county leadership has done an excellent job balancing safety considerations with efforts to incrementally return the community to more “normal” activities. We believe this plan is consistent with that approach and we will continue seeking ways to incrementally provide additional in-person experiences, particularly for our students with the greatest learning needs.
Sean Bulson, Ed.D.
Harford County Public Schools