THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Navigating a ‘Messy’ Return to School

    Posted by George Arlotto on 10/22/2020

    Messy.

    That’s the word I have used most often to describe the hybrid learning model that the Board of Education recently approved and which is set to be implemented in November for students in ECI programs, prekindergarten, kindergarten, and first through fifth grades. I’ve used it because I want to be up front with our families, our employees, and our community.

    A hybrid learning model – any hybrid learning model – is going to be accompanied by complexities and limitations that cause consternation and discord. Ours is no exception, and we must rid ourselves of the notion that any initial return to our school buildings will be a re-entrance to an environment identical to the one we left in March. It will not.

    There are, of course, things that will not change. Our amazing educators, administrators, support professionals, and other AACPS teammates will continue to be just that. The work they did to pivot on a moment’s notice last spring and enhance their capabilities over the summer in order to deliver creative, quality instruction and support to students this fall has been both phenomenal and inspirational. They will continue to rise to the challenge, because that’s who they are.

    However, we have students and families in many different places today and their needs vary greatly. Meeting those varied needs is difficult in any plan. The introduction of multi-modal family choice (hybrid, virtual for the first semester, or virtual for the full year) combined with the variety of scenarios for employees means that there must be change.

    Students – even those who will engage in a hybrid format – may not have the same teacher with whom they began the year. Because we will be transporting students to and from schools and need to allow for middle school and high school transportation in the future, start and dismissal times for those enrolled in hybrid learning will revert to the school hours of last year. Those students learning virtually for the remainder of the semester will also see their school hours change. Students who will remain virtual learners for the entirety of the school year will keep their current school hours.

    There will be health and safety adjustments as well, most notably the wearing of masks and physical distancing. We will utilize outdoor areas where possible and allow as much student movement, albeit limited, as we can. Circle time will not look as it did in March, and the use of shared supplies and spaces will also be limited for safety reasons. Meals will be served in classrooms, and cultural arts instruction will continue to be delivered virtually. We will ask families to screen their students for COVID-19 symptoms before sending them off to school and employees to screen themselves before heading to work.

    I firmly believe that the model we have worked on since last spring at the direction of our board is a good one, and it will work for many of our students. That said, however, we are akin to a boat in a stormy sea, rocking with the waves as we chart the best course for 85,000 unique learners. We are grateful for the input from our families and employees that have helped shape this plan, and we will continue to adjust it to the best of our ability as circumstances dictate.

    As we do so, we will rely in part on the lessons we have learned throughout this process about instructional creativity and student and family engagement. We are teaching students in ways we never envisioned a year ago. Our virtual Back to School events and parent-teacher conferences were incredibly well attended, and our schools have employed creative methods to engage families and staffs for the betterment of students.

    As we embark on this course, we must band together to work through the messiness. We must also acknowledge that the mess doesn’t eliminate the magic, and that’s what our educators bring to students and families every single day.

    George Arlotto is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at superintendent@aacps.org.

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  • Deadline for Families, Employees to Submit Hybrid Model Choices Extended to Monday, Oct. 19

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 10/15/2020

    Families and school system employees will have an additional four days to decide how they wish to proceed in light of the Board of Education’s approval of a hybrid instructional model that is set to begin next month, Superintendent George Arlotto announced today.

    The deadlines for families to indicate which of three models in which they wish to enroll their child and for employees to indicate their intentions regarding applying for leave, accommodations, and teaching in a hybrid model have been moved from Thursday, October 15, to 5 p.m. on Monday, October 19. Families should go to www.aacps.org/oct2020familyreopening and employees should go to www.aacps.org/oct2020employeereopening to submit their responses.

    “This is a complex issue and I realize these decisions are very difficult ones for our families and our employees,” Dr. Arlotto said. “We are continuing to add more information and answers to frequently asked questions to our websites and I want our families and employees to have the time necessary to process that information.”

    Under a plan approved by the Board of Education on October 7, students in ECI and prekindergarten through second grade will begin hybrid classes on Monday, November 16, attending on either Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday and engaging in virtual learning on other days. All students and teachers will work virtually on Wednesdays to allow for a thorough cleaning of school buildings.

    On Monday, November 30, students in grades 3 through 5 will return in a hybrid format, operating under the same guidelines as students in ECI and prekindergarten through second grade.

    Anne Arundel County Public Schools will continue to work with the Anne Arundel County Department of Health and closely monitor health data to make further decisions, including those that impact middle school and high school students. The current timeline has a goal of beginning to bring those students into buildings beginning in mid-December.

    Families have the option of whether to have students take part in the hybrid format or remain as virtual learners for either the semester or the full year. Families who do not provide a response will have their students enrolled as virtual learners for the remainder of the school year (the Virtual Full-Year Model).

    Only families of students in ECI, prekindergarten, or grades 1 through 5 need to submit their preferences at this time. Families of middle school and high school students will have that opportunity at a later date.

    Families who have made a choice and wish to change that choice can do so by logging back into the survey using the confirmation number they received on their first submission along with their student’s date of birth and student ID number.

    Under the plan approved by the Board, the school system will also continue to increase the number of students taking part in in-person learning at its developmental centers and specialty sites. Teachers will return to their classrooms and begin teaching virtually on Monday, November 2.

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  • October 2020 AACPS Roadmap to Reopening - For Educators

    Posted by Melvin Edwards on 10/9/2020

    Welcome to our October 2020 reopening of schools.  This site is designed to support employees as we reopen for in-person learning in waves beginning with the return of all educators to their schools on November 2, 2020.  Each learning model is described in more detail on this site so that educators of elementary students can make informed decisions now. Hybrid possibilities for secondary students will be shared as plans progress. Families of elementary-aged students have also been given access to the detailed descriptions of the models so they are best able to make sound choices for their students.  Every family of elementary students (ECI, PreK, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 – 5 students) will register their choice from the October 2020 Family Reopening website so that proper preparations for staffing elementary classrooms can be made.

    Every Unit I, II, and IV school-based employee is required to register their intent using the Employee Registration Button on this page.  The deadline for registering is Thursday, October 15, 2020 by midnight (12:00 AM).  You will be asked to note whether you intend to return to school on November 2, 2020, apply for an accommodation due to healthcare or childcare, apply for leave, or potentially apply for retirement.  As you know, we will use family decisions and employee decisions to adequately staff our hybrid and virtual classrooms for the return of elementary students in November.

    School-Based Instructional Staff

    We realize in these uncertain times that many employees are struggling to secure appropriate childcare for their children. School-based instructional staff will be permitted to bring their school-age children to work with them for a limited period, to facilitate the transition to onsite work.  Elementary school instructional staff will be permitted to do so until November 16, 2020, when elementary students return to buildings.  Middle and high school instructional staff may continue to bring their own children into their classrooms until the earlier of: a) the date when AACPS students return for hybrid learning at the middle or high schools; or b) Wednesday, December 23, 2020.  Staff who are afforded this opportunity must monitor their children at all times within their classrooms, and adhere to all AACPS safety protocols.  Failure to do so will result in suspension of the privilege.  It is important to note that staff at locations where hybrid instruction is already occurring, such as in our three Developmental Centers and our Center for Applied Technology North, are not eligible to bring their children to school.  A form will be made available soon for school-based instructional staff who wish to take advantage of this benefit.

    NOTE:  Accommodation and leave applications will be processed as expeditiously as possible. We will notify employees as the applications are processed. Please know that it may take 1-3 weeks based on the volume of applications submitted.

    Employee Registration

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