Families with children in Prince George’s County, Maryland, public schools received answers to their questions last night about the school system turning entirely to online learning for the first half of the upcoming school year.
Nearly 14,000 Prince George’s County residents dialed into a Wednesday night teleconference with school system CEO Dr. Monica Goldson. They asked questions of the school leader ranging from the content that will be taught online, the tools students will need and how students will be graded.
“All content areas will be taught, beginning the first day of school … we’re also trying to find a way to continue with instrument and choir,” Goldson said.
Students will have full school days online five days a week during normal school hours.
“It will be just like being in school but will be done virtually … if your school was from 7:45 [a.m.] to 2:15 [p.m.], then that will be the hours of the virtual learning experience,” Goldson said.
Despite the circumstances, Goldson said students will be given traditional letter and numerical grades for assignments.
A parent with a kindergartner getting ready to start school wondered if he had the right computer gear at home and asked what software would be needed for the child’s distancing learning.
“We will provide you with the device that you will need to use,” Goldson said. “For our early grades, we do provide an iPad versus a Chromebook because it’s easier for them to utilize and manipulate.”
Goldson said the iPads for early grades and the Google Chromebooks for older students come with all the necessary software installed.
A parent of a special education student asked if her child would have all the learning tools typically found in the classroom for students’ individual education plans.
“We will designate a time for you to safely come to the school location to get the tools that you will need at home for our special education students so that they will be successful,” Goldson said.
The school leader added that enough iPads and Chromebooks have been obtained so that paraprofessionals and aides could also engage with the students virtually.
Under the county’s plan, teachers will be required to respond within 24 hours to student questions about classwork or homework.
“I’m sure once we reiterate to teachers that we’ll need them to respond in 24 hours to students that they will be amenable to that,” Goldson said.
Previously, school regulations required teachers to respond to students’ emails within 48 hours.
To avoid the online teaching platform from crashing under the weight of 136,000 students and 10,000 teachers, Goldson said the school system will continue to rely on two different teaching platforms — Zoom and Google Classroom.
“We will have an amazing school year despite what COVID has presented to us,” Goldson said.
A snap poll conducted at the start of the teleconference indicated that 92% of participants approve of the school system’s plan to go virtual from the start of the school year until at least Jan. 29.
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