Back to classrooms for students in Prince George’s Co. Public Schools this fall

Students in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools will be back in classrooms in the fall after a year of virtual and hybrid learning, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Hybrid instruction will be discontinued in line with guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education and state school board of education,” said Monica Goldson, chief executive officer of the school system, in a YouTube video to the school community.

“Our goal is to have students back in our buildings this fall full time and in person daily.”

Goldson encourages students who are 12 or older to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Full-time, in-person classes will be available to students from prekindergarten through 12th grade, five days a week, under a pre-pandemic school schedule.

Children in kindergarten through sixth grade who are not eligible for a vaccine will have a limited, application-based virtual learning option. And students who can’t return to school due to medical conditions may apply for Home and Hospital Teaching services.

“I’m excited. I want to see our children,” Goldson told WTOP.

She spent time visiting classrooms when hybrid learning was introduced this spring, and said the looks on the children’s faces showed they were clearly happy to be back in school.

“So you can imagine what the first day of school will feel like,” she said.

Goldson was asked if she made the right decision to continue with virtual learning when other systems were switching to hybrid or even in-person instruction in the 2020-2021 school year.

“Oh, definitely. I’m sure that I made the right call,” she said. “I made that decision based on the metrics for our county. And I talked to our health officer frequently as well as our medical experts who are providing us feedback. There is nothing that I would do differently than what we did before.”

At the same time, Goldson said she’s eager to return to in-person learning system-wide, and not just for academic reasons.

“While school is a place of learning, it also is a place where we learn not only content, but social skills as well.”

Goldson said when students do come back, the school system will continue to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

If those guidelines continue to recommend mask-wearing, she said, that’s what the schools will require.

“And we will continue to practice safe hygiene and social distancing. So I think regardless of whether the vaccine is available for our children under the age of 12, what we do know is that frequent hand washing, and good hygiene practices is what will help to ensure that there is no spread of COVID-19.”

Here are more of the specifics of what Prince George’s County plans to offer, according to a news release:

Fall Virtual Learning Program (Grades K-6)

  • There will be limited seats available for students who want to continue with virtual learning, but the program will be discontinued once a COVID-19 vaccine is available.
  • Parents need to apply by Wednesday, June 30.
  • The program adheres to regular elementary and middle school schedules, but the virtual teachers may not be from the students’ assigned schools.
  • Students can return for in-person instruction at the end of the first semester in January.

Online Campus (Grades 7-12)

  • A new PGCPS specialty program that will enroll 700 students is designed for those who thrive in an online learning environment. It will combine synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The school system said the program will focus on the core content areas with limited elective course offerings.

On Tuesday, Goldson also explained why the school system will continue to offer virtual learning to some students.

“To offer a virtual learning option does not mean that we’re offering it because people are hesitant to return — we’re offering it because we believe that we now have a cadre of students and an amazing teaching staff that can help to do another form of teaching and learning.”

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

Colleen Kelleher

Colleen Kelleher is an award-winning journalist who has been with WTOP since 1996. Kelleher joined WTOP as the afternoon radio writer and night and weekend editor and made the move to WTOP.com in 2001. Now she works early mornings as the site's Senior Digital Editor.

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