More than 20,000 people dialed in Wednesday to ask Prince George’s County, Maryland, schools CEO Monica Goldson about fall school plans — especially about the limited virtual learning option.
Seven hundred virtual learning slots for middle and high school students are available in the fall. Applications will be available starting on June 21. The criteria to be eligible include a 2.5 GPA and no more than 18 days of absences.
The application for the virtual learning option for kindergarten though grade 6 is currently available through June 30.
Goldson said that if a COVID-19 vaccine does not become available for children under the age of 12, virtual learning can continue after the first semester.
“If we’re able to receive the vaccine for children under the age of 12, before the first semester concludes, then we will end virtual learning in January and students will be returned to in-person learning for spring semester,” Goldson said.
The new PGCPS program 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.
“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,” Goldson said in a video address Tuesday.
One parent wanted to know if there are virtual learning options for parents who are not comfortable vaccinating their child under 10 years old, and how would those parents be accommodated.
Goldson pointed to an option that requires medical documentation.
“That is for students [whose] doctors have completed documentation to show that it is not safe for them to return to a school environment, or that in some cases, are medically ill and are able to continue to attend school regularly. So if that’s the case, for the spring semester, even when the vaccine is available, you can definitely apply for home hospital care, which allows you to continue virtually,” Goldson said.
The Maryland State Department of Education decides whether vaccines will be required for students, and Goldson said it has not required for any students to be vaccinated at this time.
The state department of education did not require vaccinations for teachers, as well, but Goldson said that more than 12,000 Prince George’s County schools employees, who participated in a program between the county health department and Kaiser Permanente, have received a vaccine.
Goldson said the expectation is that students will remain in their original choice — virtual or in-person learning — until the conclusion of the first semester.
Goldson said that conversations continue about virtual options for pre-K, and that while a virtual learning plan had been submitted for K-12, the Maryland State Department of Education did not have a provision for pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.
“So we’re working through those next steps. And then we will definitely communicate to our community” once a plan is made, Goldson said. “For right now we have them coming in person,” she added, saying that students in that group “really do a lot better when they are in person.”
Goldson said students returning to the classroom would have an experience like what “they might remember as normal.”
“They’ll be able to change classes; they will be with their friends in the cafeteria. But there will be several opportunities throughout the day to reinforce safe hygiene, (such as) washing of hands. And we’ll continue to adhere to [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” she said, and this includes wearing masks and maintaining 3 feet of distance.
“So right now, it is still required that our students wear masks when they’re in the building … If that is still the requirement of CDC, when we start school in the fall, then we will continue to adhere to those guidelines. But as normal as it can be? Yes, I think we’ll go back to normal experience at the elementary, middle and high school level,” she said.
Goldson said that she expects athletic activities to resume in the fall. Children whose families are picking the virtual option can still participate in athletic programs, but parents will have to make sure their child has transportation to get to school.
The conference call also polled participants on who wanted a virtual back-to-school night (70%) and printed report cards (77%).
- Sign up for WTOP alerts
- Sign up for WTOP’s coronavirus email newsletter
- Latest coronavirus test results in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Latest vaccination numbers in DC, Maryland and Virginia
- Amid COVID-19 decline, welcome to ‘slightly relaxed life’ in Montgomery Co.
- Smithsonian’s natural history museum to reopen June 18