“Return to Learn” Update

July 8, 2020

The following update includes information about:

  • Survey for parents and guardians

  • Planning for the 2020-2021 academic year

  • Safety precautions for in-person summer school

  • State guidance for school reopening

Survey for parents and guardians

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting countless aspects of our daily lives. It will certainly affect the 2020-2021 school year. As Washington County Public Schools (WCPS) plans for how we educate children in the fall, it is important that we hear from families to help determine our best path forward.

WCPS has explored initial plans for the fall with the Students First COVID-19 Task Force, and we are moving forward with gathering additional stakeholder input this summer. Please give thoughtful consideration to completing the survey linked below. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. You are welcome to complete surveys for each of your children if they are in different designated grade bands. Your feedback is valuable in our decision-making process.

*Please complete the survey by July 14, 2020.*

Planning for the 2020-2021 academic year

We understand everyone is anxious to find out more about what school will look like in the fall.

If at all possible, it is the goal of WCPS to have students return to school in some capacity when the school year begins on Monday, August 31, 2020. We recognize the value of students learning and collaborating with educators and their peers. We are exploring all the ways we can support that learning environment in a safe and healthy way.

We are closely following guidance from the State and various health agencies. However, those guidelines continue to change, sometimes daily. In addition, it is important that members of our learning community are involved in WCPS’ plans to reopen schools. WCPS is exploring a variety of learning scenarios so that we are best prepared to adapt as the pandemic evolves. We encourage all families to plan now for ongoing changes beyond WCPS’ control that may result from new guidelines or even spikes in COVID-19 cases.

One thing is certain: our staff is preparing to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of students in the upcoming school year, regardless of how learning occurs. If we must return to distance learning, it will look drastically different from what we experienced in the spring. If we are holding classes in school, we will be implementing health and safety protocols for the well-being of all students and staff and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the days and weeks ahead, WCPS will be working with parents, teachers, school staff, community partners, and even students as we prepare models for returning. We will continue to keep you updated and informed as these important details come together.

Safety precautions for in-person summer school and extended school year opportunities

By invitation only, middle school summer school and our Extended School Year (ESY) program classes are going to start in person at designated schools on July 13. Similarly, elementary summer school classes are also planned to be held in person beginning July 27.

In an effort to show families what in-person school could look like in the fall, we would like to share with you some of the safety precautions that are in place for these sessions. It is important to note that both staff and students will be asked to follow the same health protocols.

Examples of these precautions include, but are not limited to:

  • Classroom capacity will average 15 people or less, including staff. Desks are arranged to maximize physical distancing.

  • Bus riders will be assigned an individual seat unless they live in the same household.

  • Individually packaged meals will be provided to students to eat in classrooms.

  • Students and staff are required to wear face coverings over the mouth and nose throughout the school day and on school buses. If someone comes to school without a mask, one will be provided by the school.

  • Custodial staff will be cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces throughout the day and completing a thorough cleaning after students and staff leave.

  • Hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms. Students and staff will have multiple opportunities to wash their hands throughout the day.

  • Parents and guardians are to screen their child(ren)’s health daily. If a child exhibits COVID-19 symptoms, the child and any other children in the household should stay home.

  • If a student shows COVID-19 symptoms at school, a parent or guardian will be asked to pick up the student and any other children in the household who may be attending other schools.

These practices will be reviewed and adjusted as necessary to follow State health guidelines.

State guidance for school reopening

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) developed Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education. This guiding document was created to assist local school systems with their recovery plans. It lists 13 requirements each school system must fulfill in reopening. For Washington County, they include:

  1. The recovery plan must be completed and posted to the WCPS website by August 14, 2020. The MSDE will review all local recovery plans to ensure that the plans include and address all requirements for opening schools.

  2. The WCPS equity plan must be reflected throughout the local recovery plan.

  3. WCPS must establish a recovery plan stakeholder group that is representative of our schools and community.

  4. Early in the school year, WCPS must determine where their students are instructionally, identify the gaps in learning, and prepare a path for instructional success and recovery.

  5. WCPS must ensure that Maryland college and career-ready standards pre-k -12 are taught in all content areas and the state frameworks are followed for each content.

  6. WCPS must follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  7. WCPS must follow procedures that are developed by the MSDE in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for an individual who tests positive for COVID-19.

  8. WCPS must follow safety protocols for the collection of materials, cleaning of schools and other facilities, daily cleaning, and nutrition as established by MSDE in collaboration with the Maryland Department of Health and the CDC guidance.

  9. WCPS must follow protocols for the safe transportation of students to and from schools.

  10. WCPS must develop a system for tracking attendance when students are engaged in distance learning.

  11. WCPS must develop its own plan for communication.

  12. The COVID-19 checklist must be utilized in the development of the recovery plan.

  13. The Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) roadmap forward for interscholastic athletics and activities must align with the MSDE and the Local School System (LSS) educational and health and safety decisions in order for education-based athletics and activities to resume during Stage One and Stage Two of the governor’s Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.

As our collaborative work continues, we will share more specific updates about Washington County’s plan with the WCPS learning community. WCPS staff will be presenting a reopening plan to the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, at the 6:00 p.m. public business meeting. The meeting can be viewed on the WCPS website under the “School Board” navigation and on the WCPS Facebook page. The final plan will be posted to the WCPS website on or before August 14, 2020.

As a school system, we recognize the priority to balance the needs of our students, families, and staff with our mission to educate and support our community’s children. There are no easy solutions in the midst of a global pandemic, but we believe our collective efforts as a learning community will lead to the best outcomes for our children.