Wicomico students will start school year virtually

WICOMICO CO., Md. – During a Tuesday morning meeting, the Wicomico County Board of Education voted unanimously to start the 2020-2021 school year completely virtual.

“An exemplary program, a virtual program online, that will serve the needs of all of our students until we’re able to return to our building which we all want desperately to do,” says Wicomico County Superintendent Dr. Donna Hanlin

Hanlin describes the responses to this decision as a “mixed bag.” She says it’s hard to find one majority feeling because this is a new scenario for everyone.

“We’re going to try to work with families as best we can and provide a consistent schedule for teachers and students to hopefully be optimal learning for all,” says Dr. Rick Briggs, the chief academic officer for Wicomico County Public Schools.

Officials say they’re still fine tuning details about the percentage of time that students and staff will have for synchronous live instruction. “We recognize how important that face to face interaction is even if it’s virtual,” says Hanlin.

This decision means that the entire first semester will be virtual with some options for small focused groups of students to get limited in-person instruction later this fall. Those groups may include those needing special support services or those engaged in a hands-on CTE program.

They’re also returning to traditional grading instead of pass – fail. “We’ve had much more time to develop curriculum and to make sure our teachers have what they need so we believe we are in a position to make sure we have a robust instructional program where students are held accountable not just through grades but through attendance,” says Hanlin.

The president of Wicomico County Education Association, a union that represents almost 13-hundred Wicomico teachers and staff, agrees with this move. “There is no perfect solution for everyone involved but certainly it is a wise and safe choice,” says Joan Smith.

Meanwhile, others are taking to social media to weigh in on this highly anticipated decision. One person saying, “I do feel for those parents who work full-time with no daycare.” Another saying, “The least the county can do is give kids sports and activities.”

Officials say they’ll do what they can to offer those opportunities in a virtual setting but are waiting to see what the state says in the coming weeks. “I think it’s going to become clear for all of our athletes across the state very shortly,” says Briggs.

Beginning on Wednesday, July 29th, schools will start to contact families to assess technology needs. Officials say CARES funding will allow every single student to receive a laptop. Laptops will be distributed at schools to those needing them between August 31st and September 3rd.

The Wicomico County Board of Education will have a meeting on August 11th where additional details on the plan will be shared. The detailed Recovery Plan will be posted to WCBOE’s website on August 14th.

On August 17th, online tutorials will begin for parents and guardians who would like support in helping students on virtual platforms. Then on August 21st, schools will mail welcome letters with additional information for students and parents. Teachers will return on August 26th to work on engaging in virtual planning and professional development.

The 2020-2021 school year will begin for students on Tuesday, September 8th.

A few of the other details that still need to be worked out include transportation and access to school meals.

Wicomico joins Somerset, Caroline and Dorchester Counties in committing to an all virtual start to the school year. Talbot and Worcester Counties have previously said they were looking at hybrid alternating weeks but they have not announced their final decision yet.

All counties are required to finalize their plans and post them to their websites by August 14th.

Categories: Local News, Maryland