By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) will open the 2020-2021 school year in a virtual learning environment where students will be in class from home through, at least, December, with hopes to reopen for in-school instruction next spring. A 150-page report was released on June 30 outlining the protocols that educators and students will follow because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PGCPS will start the school year on August 31 with full distance learning for the first semester.  Starting December 1, PGCPS will evaluate options for the spring semester. The first option is for on campus learning to begin full time on February 1, 2021.  Option two would be a “hybrid” model featuring a choice of two days of face-to-face instruction and three days of virtual learning sessions from home. The final provision would continue distance learning from home daily.

Students will be expected to participate daily in a full, six-hour school day of instruction, five days per week, with teachers having the option of providing instruction from home or using their classrooms to provide instruction during the workday.

“The impact of COVID-19 on public education is unprecedented and  is no exception,” states the opening of the report’s executive summary. “This global health crisis has changed, perhaps irrevocably, the way that we interact, instruct and engage in our schools. It has served as a call to action and an opportunity to reimagine our instructional models for our changing world, workplace and future.”

PGCPS CEO Dr. Monica Goldson promised that every student will have some form of a personal computer and Wi-Fi access, while assuring 

increased support for students, including instructional, emotional and social supports.

More than 60 percent of students were able to access online instruction every day as the school year concluded in June. With an operational baseline to work from heading into this school year, PGCPS expects to provide better support to navigate through technology and instructional hurdles that plagued students and their parents as school buildings were closed last March.

The plans that were released were developed by the 15 members of the School Board along with feedback from the community.  More than 80 percent of the respondents to last spring’s survey preferred to open on time with some form of a distance learning model and a shift to a combination of elements from learning at home and in-school instruction.

“The health and safety of our students, employees and their families is our highest priority,” reads another portion of the summary.   “The development of this reopening plan involved many members of our school community – internally and externally – and a collaborative, careful and methodical approach toward our foremost goal: to reopen PGCPS safely and responsibly for those we serve, teach and lead.” 

According to the report, 46 percent of those who responded preferred to continue learning at home full-time, while 42 percent expressed their interest in a hybrid combination distance learning with in-school instruction and12 percent said they wanted to return to school full-time.