The Frederick County Public Schools system, working during the past three months of the pandemic with distance learning for children, wanted to end the school year a little early.
It asked the state for a waiver to close on Friday, June 5, but the state board of education said no, that the county had to continue instruction until the planned final day of June 17.
So Superintendent Terry Alban announced a plan that appears to technically comply with the state directive while essentially ending instruction on June 5, as the county wanted to.
To be fair, the final days of any school year are a hodgepodge of work and play, picnics, movies and creative time designed to meet the requirement of a 180-day school year while acknowledging that very little learning goes on in any June.
With the distance learning mandatory, it was always going to be difficult to fill our students’ days as this strange school year winds down. And as long as the teachers have covered all the material in the curriculum, we are OK with relaxing the rules.
Still, the state did say the county had to keep going until June 17. So here is what that will look like under Alban’s plan as sent to teachers, according to a story by News-Post reporter Katryna Perera:
Teachers were to give final assignments for the fourth academic quarter on June 5, and students were expected to complete these and other remaining assignments by Tuesday, June 9. Then the fun begins.
On June 10, students will complete a “reflection activity” that will ask them questions about their distance learning experience and provide the opportunity for feedback and suggestions for teachers.
On June 11, students and families will be able to view progress and grades for the fourth quarter, if a student has opted for a letter grade instead of pass/incomplete. From June 12 to June 17, which is the last day of school, a program entitled “Springboard for Summer and Beyond” will be launched.
In her letter to teachers, Alban wrote: “FCPS leaders have found a way to ensure we provide you with the opportunity for ample training and building proficiency for the next chapter.”
Students and families will be able to continue reviewing distance learning sessions to keep their learning and emotional well-being going over the summer, Alban said, which should be useful.
Alban said in the letter that students will be able to access resources to keep academic skills fresh, explore virtual field trip options and learn strategies to combat stress, among others.
Maybe that is the best ending we could hope for in this truncated, dislocated school year. FCPS seems to have done the best it could considering the difficult circumstance of teaching during a pandemic with enforced social distancing.
Now, the pressure will mount on the school system’s leaders as the fall term approaches. Will we see split schedules, alternate school days, further distance learning in the next year?
If you read the blogs on Education Week, the newspaper for education professionals, you quickly see that no one has a good answer. The guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would almost certainly lead to dividing up the student body in to some kind of split schedule. But it is an answer almost no one likes.
Unfortunately, time is moving forward and the answers are no more clear. But those questions all will need to be answered in the coming weeks. Superintendent Alban and her staff have their work cut out for them.