Prince George’s County Public Schools to start year with distance learning

Prince George’s County Public Schools students will continue distance learning at the start of the school year through January 2021.

Schools CEO Monica Goldson announced the reopening plan Wednesday afternoon, citing broad input from staff, families and other community members.

“I fully understand that the decision that has been made to continue distance learning from Aug. 31 until Jan. 29 is one that is not the perfect scenario,” Goldson said during a news conference.

“Unfortunately, we’re not at a time where I feel comfortable that we could move forward with excellent delivery of instruction and keeping our children safe and physically being in our buildings.”

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Citing a school community survey, PGCPS said 46% of families expressed preference to continue distance learning that started in the spring. Educators and administrators in favor were above 50%.

The school system had also considered a hybrid instruction model, involving two days of in-person classes and three days online, with a staggered schedule that would allow for a reduced number of students in buildings.

But, there were concerns around safety and logistics with the hybrid model, Goldson said.

“Prince George’s County has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 public health crisis in Maryland,” the school system said in a release. “In light of the health disparities in communities that house more than 136,500 students and 20,000 employees, there is a significant public health concern if schools were to reopen this fall for in-person instruction.”

Goldson said the “amazing, robust distance learning experience” this fall will include more live instruction as well as recorded components.

There will also be more support for students, including instructional, emotional and social supports, and Goldson ensured that every student will be equipped with an iPad or laptop and Wi-Fi access.

“We’ve also learned that we need to support our families more,” Goldson said, which includes parent support centers. Meals will continue to be offered, similar to what happened in the spring.

The distance learning start does affect school athletics, which will be on hold.

“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.

But there will be opportunities for school clubs to continue virtually.

Goldson highlighted other key dates:

  • Dec. 1-18 — the school system will offer families a chance to possibly choose whether they want to continue distance learning or transition into a hybrid model for the third quarter, starting February, through the rest of the school year.
  • February to June — the school system could possibly shift into hybrid instruction for those who choose so.

A tele town hall will be held Wednesday evening, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., for families and other community members. Employees will have a tele town hall Thursday night.

A special school board meeting will be held in late July to review the plan.

For more details, visit PGCPS’ website.

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Teta Alim

Teta Alim is a Digital Editor at WTOP. Teta's interest in journalism started in music and moved to digital media.

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