St. Mary’s public schools’ teachers and administrators are trying to begin at-home learning, adhere to the governor’s restrictions and stay within teacher and administrator unions’ negotiated agreements — an endeavor that’s equivalent to a high-wire balancing act.
While some online resources are supposed to be available for St. Mary’s students this week, the school system said it is still adhering to its planned spring break next week, leaving students potentially two more weeks without teacher feedback.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Karen Salmon, superintendent of Maryland schools, announced March 12 to close all state public schools from March 16 to March 27. The governor last Wednesday extended the closure through April 24.
St. Mary’s school staff made online learning available to students today, April 1, according to the superintendent. However, staff will not be interacting with students or viewing their progress through the online programs until April 14 — the first day students would have returned to classes after spring break.
Superintendent Scott Smith said the negotiated agreement with the Education Association for St. Mary’s County’s certificate and support staff, as well as the St. Mary’s Association of Supervisors and Administrators Agreement, have specific language regarding the number of employee work days.
Smith said in an email, “10-month employees are contracted to work 190 days. 11-month employees are contracted to work 212 days. 12-month employees are contracted to work 249 days. The spring break is calculated into these totals so we cannot compel people to telework these days. As a result, 10- and 11-month staff will be off next week in accordance with our school calendar.”
He said teachers were not required to work in the last couple weeks, since the school system was closed for an emergency. However, during that time, courses were developed by instructional supervisors through online programs.
According to Smith, as of Tuesday staff would have to make up the 10 days missed over the past two weeks, unless the state department of education waives those days.
It was not immediately clear why spring break would not be used to make up some of those missed days, as suggested last month by the state superintendent of schools.
“Fourth marking period coursework for math, English, social studies, and science will be turned on for all secondary students on Wednesday morning,” April 1, Smith said, adding that students will see specific core content courses appear and start working through the individual lessons immediately. However, teachers would not be required to look at or give feedback to students for another two weeks.
At last week’s school board meeting, Smith said 9,000 laptops with Windows 10 could be handed to kids who do not have their own devices to access the online programs. They are also looking to utilize Atlantic Broadband’s Channel 96 and creating printed packets for every grade level.
“At this point, the third marking period concluded March 13, with no new work assigned for this quarter. Teachers are expected to provide recovery options for students who may have had incomplete or unsatisfactory performance in the third quarter,” Jeff Maher, chief strategic officer, said in an email.
He added that grading policy discussions are happening but they are awaiting guidance from the state’s education department.
Smith said third quarter grades have to be finalized by the end of this week and teachers are emailing students and reviewing missing assignments given before schools were closed on March 13.
Students can access learning programs like Edgenuity and Imagine Learning through their Clever accounts, billed as a one-stop shop of all of their instructional resources that aligns with their grade levels.
Edgenuity provides student-specific courses, video tutorials, notes, workspaces and progress monitors. During last Wednesday’s school board meeting, Smith said only a handful of teachers were trained in the program.
He told The Enterprise on Tuesday morning that training will continue this week.
“This has been made quite challenging with the governor’s ‘stay at home’ executive order. All the training for Edgenuity and Imagine Learning must be done remotely and not all staff have high-speed internet access,” Smith said. “We are doing everything we can.”