CECIL COUNTY – A team of approximately 20 Cecil County Public Schools employees delivered more than 2,700 at-home learning materials to the homes of students throughout the county on Monday – after a recent gubernatorial COVID-19 emergency order extended the closure of all Maryland schools through April 24.
Kelly Keeton, a CCPS spokeswoman, reported that school employees on the team delivered a total of 1,909 packets of printed schoolwork and 812 Chromebook laptops to hundreds of homes, in response to requests made by parents of students.
The Chromebook laptops, which enable connection to online instruction, were designated for students in grades 3 through 12 who do not have access to a device at home, while pupils in PreK through 12 were eligible for the printed learning packets. The school system is loaning the laptops to those students in need.
Cecil County Schools Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson told the Cecil Whig on Wednesday that each employee on the team took a different delivery route. He estimated that it took about nine hours to distribute all of the materials to the homes.
In preparation for those deliveries, principals and other employees worked several hours over the weekend making copies of the printed materials inside the 1,909 at-home learning packets, according to Keeton and Lawson.
The delivery effort took place after CCPS officials nixed the original plan of having parents come to designated schools to pick up the requested materials.
Initially, parents had been instructed to come to those schools between 9 a.m. and noon on Tuesday, March 31, and to follow specific directives aimed at reducing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Instructions for the planned distribution at Perryville Middle School, for example, read, “Distribution will occur outside of our building in the front loop . . . Please do not exit your car to receive Chromebook. Pull forward and roll down your window to tell us the name of the student. Printed packets will be in boxes labeled by grade.”
That pick-up instruction letter ended with, “Thank you for your support as we navigate this new process.”
That letter was posted on the CCPS website and was emailed to families of students. In addition, the information was contained in school messenger calls to parents of students.
But school officials then grew concerned that the proposed at-school distribution of learning materials still could pose COVID-19 exposure risks, particularly if a large number of parents showed up at the same time, according to Keeton, who explained, “We wanted to avoid a large gathering.”
So that led to Plan B, a common theme throughout the United States amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“In order to maintain effective social distancing practices, we have decided that instead of having families come to the schools to pick up their printed packets or loaner Chromebooks, CCPS staff members will make deliveries to the home of any student who has requested them,” Lawson explained Friday in letter posted on the CCPS website and emailed to school families.
That letter was entitled, “Change in Plans!” The letter's update information also was contained in school messenger calls to parents of students.
On Monday, while delivering the at-home learning materials to hundreds of homes in Cecil County, school employees on the team were mindful of social-distancing at the residences, Keeton reported. (Parents who had requested the materials had been notified that the deliveries would take place on Monday.)
“They knocked on the door, made eye contact and left the materials,” Keeton outlined.
On Tuesday, with that major distribution of at-home learning materials completed, school officials announced a new plan for future distributions of learning materials, once again, out of an abundance of caution.
“In an effort to ensure the safety of everyone, from this point forward, schools will mail home instructional packets that have been requested. Chromebooks that have been requested can be picked up at the school by appointment only on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 a.m. and noon. Please contact the school to make an appointment for pickup,” instructs a letter posted Tuesday on the CCPS website and emailed to the families of students.
That information also was contained in school messenger calls to parents of students.
Lawson noted that, when the team of school employees delivered the 1,900 Chromebook laptops on Monday, an equally large number of laptops already had been distributed to students two weeks earlier in preparation for the statewide school closure.
He reported that on March 13 - the last day of school before the closure - school staff distributed about 1,900 other Chromebook laptops to students - as requested by their parents - at the schools before pupils were dismissed.
Lawson gave specific credit to Kyle Rickansrud, director of CCPS Technology, for that swift distribution of the 1,900 Chromebook laptops at the schools on March 13.
"He came up with the idea of sending out a survey to see who would need a laptop. The survey was sent out to parents on March 9," Lawson said, adding that, based on the responses, 1,900 laptops were handed out to students on March 13.
Lawson reported that officials in other school districts expressed amazement that CCPS had distributed 1,900 laptops before the closure even started and then commented, "Kyle was way ahead of it."
Along with all other schools throughout the state, CCPS schools have been closed since March 16.