At its most recent meeting, the Garrett County Board of Education decided that student instruction for the first term of the 2020-21 school year, which begins Tuesday, September 8, will occur in a virtual format for students as our county and state continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the guidance provided by the Maryland State Department of Education, the opening plan is a modified “red model” and allows for both virtual instruction and for in-person instruction for small, special populations of students. Garrett County Public Schools (GCPS) defines special populations as students qualifying for special education, 504 students, at-risk students and homeless or displaced students.
During last spring’s school building closure, GCPS gathered student, parent, and educator feedback and has worked to improve the virtual learning experience through the following enhancements:
- A single digital platform called Schoology for students and parents to access instruction, assignments, and educator feedback
- Strategies to focus on individual student needs
- Continued efforts to ensure that students have proper devices and can connect digitally
- Increased professional learning opportunities for educators to instruct effectively in a virtual environment
Superintendent Barbara Baker stressed to the parents, students, and the community that the goal is to return to in-person learning for all children as soon as possible. A fully virtual model will be available to all students for the entire school year. According to Baker, “The safety of our students and staff is our responsibility, and we are making every effort to ensure the best possible learning opportunities while keeping everyone safe.” Any students or staff that return to the schools will return with full safety protocols in place. Ms. Baker also reminded the public that while the state remains in Stage 2 of Governor Hogan’s Roadmap to Recovery, GCPS is not permitted by the MSDE to return to full time in-person learning.
The GCPS Recovery Plan and Reopening will be released this week and includes detailed plans for virtual learning in which students will access learning online instead of face to face in the school building. They will engage in a combination of real-time virtual instruction, instruction on a more individualized schedule, and completion of assigned tasks. In addition to teachers and school counselors, additional personnel will provide learning support to students and parents.
GCPS is committed to instructing students in a virtual environment and looks forward to further preparations for a safe and productive 2020-21 school year. We will continue to provide more details in the coming days, including a request for families to enroll their students this school year in a learning model that best suits their children’s needs.