LEARNING MODEL OPTIONS FOR SPRING 2021
During the fall months of 2020, the 14 Future Planning Committees, the Steering Committee, and AACPS Academic Team leaders listened to numerous stakeholder groups to collect feedback on our virtual learning model put in place for Fall 2020. Staff worked hard to adjust the Spring 2021 virtual learning schedules to improve opportunities for meaningful student engagement, social emotional wellness, and achievement for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. They also discussed how we would best move forward to offer hybrid learning when we are able to bring large groups of students back to in-person learning. Health guidelines developed by the CDC, Anne Arundel County Health Department, and the Maryland Department of Health were considered when discussing hybrid learning options.
Why Make Learning Model Changes Now?
You may be wondering why we are making changes to the Virtual Learning Model half-way through the 2020-21 school year. You may also be wondering how we know what changes we should be making. Let’s address these questions here and now.
Importantly, we have been listening to students, parents, and teachers since virtual learning began in September. And, we have analyzed grades from the first marking period of the school year. It is clear that some students are thriving as they learn virtually and others are struggling to engage and learn as well as they did in brick and mortar schooling. Based on the information we have gathered and analyzed, we feel it is important to make changes to our virtual schedules in the new year.
As the new year begins, we will initially be changing the virtual schedules for all students. The timing of changes to the students’ virtual learning schedules will take place as noted below:
- Elementary School (ECI, preK, primary, intermediate) – Tuesday, February 2, 2021
- Middle School – (grades 6-8) – Tuesday, February 2, 2021
- High School – (grades 9-12) – Monday, January 11, 2021
ADJUSTING THE LEARNING MODEL OPTIONS
Initial Adjustments to the Virtual Learning Model for K-12 Students
Upon examination of information at elementary school level, it has become clear that the following elements should be adjusted:
- Instructional time should be adjusted somewhat to offer students more opportunity for literacy and mathematics learning with associated breaktimes placed appropriately.
- Small group time should be increased so that all students could have some time with their teacher to work together on their needs with some of their peers who have similar needs.
- Midday break should be decreased somewhat to continue to allow for lunch, play, and rest, but also support students to have some extended literacy time, socializing time, and small group time.
Upon examination of information at the middle and high school levels, it has become clear that the following elements should be adjusted:
- Time for small group instruction and support should exist for all students. However, every student does not need the same types of support. We have therefore designed small group time to offer students what they need most. Some students will have small group time that offers them:
- Time with their teacher who will reteach concepts they are struggling to understand
- Time with their classmates in small study groups to complete classwork and submit it in a timely way
- Time with their group members to complete project components with targeted teacher support
- Time with their peers in small study groups to work on problem sets, lab writeups, etc. with some teacher guidance
- Q&A time with their teacher to seek answers to questions they may have regarding assignments
- Review time with their teacher to engage in focused review sessions prior to quizzes or tests
- Realignment of some learning blocks should be made to offer students small group time aligned with each class period.
- Adjust Community Building/Meeting and Student Wellness time to allow for continued student-centered social emotional support while also allowing for more flexible instructional support time.
- Midday break should be decreased somewhat to continue to allow for lunch, clubs, and rest but also support students to have some extended instructional time and college & career readiness (CCR) time.
- Middle School Academic Flex assigned periods of Mathematics, English and World Language or support classes
- High School matrix of options for students to choose from on Wednesday morning to engage in clubs, seek learning support, expand their advanced learning opportunities, take advantage of “re-do” assignments or assessments, seek college or career counseling, participate in tutoring sessions or wellness groups.
Planning for a Return to In-Person Learning – New Model Decisions Must be Made
As we have said throughout the fall, we look forward to the day when we can once again welcome students back into our schools for in-person learning. Two Learning Models will be offered for AACPS family consideration for the Spring 2021 semester whenever the health data allows for us to return to schools.
Families will be given the option for their students to continue with Virtual-Only learning or move to the Virtual-Plus (hybrid) learning model when hybrid learning can be supported.
Virtual-Only Learning Model: Teachers will provide daily synchronous learning (live lessons) as well as learning support (tutoring), community building, clubs, and office hours as they have been doing throughout the Fall 2020 semester.
Virtual-Plus (Hybrid) Learning Model: Students will learn both virtually and in-person throughout each week. It is this model some students will return to school classrooms for in-person learning on a limited basis (2 days/week) and learn virtually the remaining three days.
As early as possible in 2021, we plan to bring back students enrolled in our Developmental Centers and in our Centers for Applied Technology, followed closely by additional small student groups with IEPs in our Specialty Sites. We will not open for hybrid learning for large numbers of students until it is deemed safe to do so by our county Health Department. At a time deemed safe to return large numbers of students to schools, we will begin implementing our Virtual-Plus (hybrid) Learning Model with our ECI and preK-5th graders.
The following major factors are driving the development of a viable Virtual-Plus (Hybrid) Learning Model for Spring 2021:
School Facilities (CDC and AA County Health Dept. Social Distancing [6ft], 10-12 Student Maximum per Classroom, and Cleaning Guidelines)
Transportation (CDC and AA County Health Dept. Social Distancing [6ft], 22-26 Student Maximum per Trip, and Cleaning Guidelines)
Meals (Timing of the Preparation and Delivery of Meals for Students Learning In-Person and Those Learning Virtual across the County)
Staffing (Availability of Staff to Teach Students Learning Virtually and Those Learning In-Person across the County at the reduced 1:10 or 1:12 Staff to Student Ratios and Ability to Recruit and Hire Staff to Serve as Midday Student Monitors in Elementary Schools when Teachers are Eating their Lunch and Planning)