Frederick County Public Schools teachers will take part in a virtual training session for one day next week to prepare for administering online instruction in case school closings are extended past two weeks.

As of Tuesday, all public schools in Maryland were scheduled to be closed until March 27 due to concerns over the coronavirus.

Melissa Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teachers Association (FCTA), said her organization negotiated with FCPS to use a teacher workday that was supposed to be held later in the year for the virtual training.

“We’re trying to deal with this the best all of us can, and I’m grateful that the school system is continuing to have open communication with us, because that is how we’re going to get through this,” Dirks said.

Specifics of the training are still being worked out, but Dirks said there are many tools FCPS can use to administer a training such as video conferencing and other educational platforms.

The training is meant to prepare teachers to move to direct online instruction with students, especially for those who do not already utilize online instruction.

“We have 3-year-old pre-K in [FCPS]. That’s going to look a lot different than what an AP World History teacher is doing with their seniors,” Dirks said. “So, part of the time for teachers next week is going to be to figure that out.”

School Superintendent Terry Alban agreed but said that she feels confident FCPS is leading other school systems in being prepared for an online transition.

“It’s not like all of a sudden in the last three weeks we said ‘Oh, we got to start developing things.’ We have things developed. ... We just have not been able to train all 3,000 teachers,” Alban said. “I still think Frederick County is leading the state in being ready to actually deliver true course material in an online vehicle.”

The two-week closure is being treated like snow days. Alban said that if the closure were extended, that’s when students would begin participating in virtual, daily instruction.

In the meantime, students are encouraged to read books and complete any assignments they were given before the closure.

For this two-week closure, teachers are off and not working, but they are still being paid.

According to Dirks, since teachers are salaried, they still receive pay even when they are not working.

“When we’re off for a week at Christmas, Those are not paid days ... but we don’t miss a paycheck,” Dirks said.

The only catch is that teachers must work the 190 days they are contracted to in order to receive all their paychecks. Dirks said the FCTA is working with FCPS to adjust the school calendar to make sure teachers work all their contracted days.

“We don’t miss a paycheck. ... If we make up these days in June, if we make up these days by not having spring break ... but things are very much in flux,” Dirks said.

Normally, making up snow days and giving teachers their full 190 workdays is not a problem. The challenge becomes if the governor decided to waive all the days schools were closed due to the coronavirus.

If the days are waived, teacher salaries could be affected, Dirks said, adding that some creative solutions could be put in place.

“What more likely would happen is we would engage in other work activities,” Dirks said. “There are lots of system things that could happen without students, but again, this is uncharted territory and that would have to be negotiated.”

Despite these potential concerns, though, Dirks said one of her biggest priorities is safety for teachers.

“We want to make sure any of the decisions ... is safe for our staff,” Dirks said. “I represent the teaching workforce, but we care very much about our support staff brothers and sisters who are reporting to work to clean the buildings and to prepare the lunches and things.”

And even though they are off, Dirks said teachers are continuing to make sure students are being supported.

“Making sure our students know that we are still there for them ... we want to make sure that this time for them is least anxiety-ridden and stressful as possible,” Dirks said. “We all got into this because we care about our students and in times like this, it makes those connections even more important.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

(15) comments

mgoose806

Maybe this could be the future... teaching certain amount of classes to High School Students on line. Why can't one teacher teach 150 students via the web? Just like College.

newspostreader

And at what point does the Internet overload and shut down?

vodalone

All of the high speed office servers are not in use, so I would think it's just a pretty even trade off.

awteam2000

The internet doesn’t shut down. I think you mean access to the internet.

You are questioning upgrading WAN architecture and making 5G available everywhere and available to everyone based on higher demand. How to address this has been going on for years.

See: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) site. Wi-Fi that most of us use today is based on a different technology than 5G or fifth-generation wireless and the FCC's is challenging what role it has in 5G technology. The FCC is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to facilitate U.S. 5G deployment a cross the nation. The technology is here and now may be the tipping point, the financial and political benefit are in line.

awteam2000

Video streaming by parents at home watching movies is by far a bigger demand on the internet, not text data.

DickD

All across the country students are going on line. Our granddaughter, going to ECU - East Carolina University is doing her final semester on line. Her brother is doing the final semester of his senior year on line. .All teachers do a lot of planning before class so this should not be hard for them.

Scottnw36

Why would this effect teachers state funded salaried roles? It’s not like students are paying for school- it’s already built in the budget. County would be paying teachers salaries regardless of if they are in school or not. Can’t imagine the headlines if FCPS told teachers since they didn’t work the required amount of days, their pay would be cut.

cmenzel

Scottnw36, that's just it. Teachers are not paid for days they don't work. Their pay is based on a 190-day calendar. If they don't work the full 190-day calendar, then theoretically, their pay can be reduced. They receive a check during periods like winter break because their pay is prorated over the course of the school year. And only a portion of their pay comes from state funding; an equal portion is funded by Frederick County tax payer dollars.

awteam2000

It would be great if Comcast provided wi-fi for limited time, to any household who needs it for online learning. Comcast charges $40.00 a month for WiFi. They should waive that charge during this crisis.

steelersfan2005

they did that days before you posted.

newspostreader

How do they expect children to learn online if they don't have Internet? Many parents are relying on schools to help feed their children. If I couldn't feed my children, I think Internet would be one of the last things I subscribe to.

cmenzel

School staff have been working to determine which students have internet access and which students do not. A plan will be developed to meet the needs of all students.

DickD

Thanks, Cathy.

sevenstones1000

I thought the teachers were already doing online teaching. My facebook posts say the teachers figured it out all by themselves and seamlessly transitioned to remote teaching. Not sure why they need training.

steelersfan2005

What is taking so long, wasn't this training suppose to be happening on Monday February 16th? Why is the government always 2 steps behind?

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