ROCK HALL — School administrators here are urging parents to fill out surveys going out on whether they want their students in classrooms during the fourth quarter or to continue with remote learning.
At a Board of Education meeting Monday, March 8, Kent County Public Schools Director of Teaching and Learning Gina Jachimowicz said a draft survey has been prepared. She said it is expected to go out to parents March 17.
"It will ask parents to please make a decision and let us know," Jachimowicz said.
Schools opened for hybrid learning last month. Students were given the option of combining virtual and in-person instruction or continuing with just distance learning. Parents are being asked their preference again for the fourth quarter.
How many students return to classrooms affects not just teachers.
Jachimowicz said administrators will have to work out classroom space, transportation and other issues. She said it could mean students change teachers and it could change how teachers conduct lessons.
In some schools and some grades, there are teachers who conduct in-person instruction while others cover virtual classes. In others, teachers are doing in-person and remote lessons simultaneously.
Jachimowicz and Superintendent Karen Couch also spoke about how Gov. Larry Hogan's executive orders on COVID-19 public health measures expire March 31 and new guidance could loosen restrictions. Jachimowicz said principals are carefully thinking about how many students can safely be in schools.
"There's nothing we want more than to bring our students back in schools," she said.
When schools re-opened here last month, there were concerns about students who had not responded to surveys and families that decided after a virtual start they wanted their children back in classrooms.
Jachimowicz said the school system is doing everything it can to bring students back to school who want in-person instruction.
"We don't have any school with what you would consider to be a significant number of students sitting on a waiting list," Jachimowicz said. "We're doing everything we can to really keep an eye on these numbers and see that we're able to bring as many students as possible face to face."
Jachimowicz also presented the results of a survey gauging opinions on remote instruction.
There were 219 student responses and 157 parents. Of them, 21% rated remote learning in KCPS highly effective, 34% stated it was effective, 33% described it as adequate and 12% said it needs improvement.
The students' main concerns were online connectivity, focus and workload. For parents it was connectivity, time management and motivation.
Board member Nivek Johnson voiced his concerns about student motivation, focus and time management. He also raised questions about how educators are ensuring students are actually learning, "securing concrete knowledge."
Jachimowicz said the school system has its own assessments for students, including regular classroom quizzes as well as cumulative assessments at certain points in the school calendar. She also spoke about collaborative efforts among educators and the resources available for them.
Johnson was joined by President Joe Goetz in saying they would like to hear from teachers about their experiences. Johnson is a teacher in Montgomery County. Goetz' wife is a teacher at Kent County High School.
In a separate presentation, Supervisor of Special Education Wendy Keen presented information on the growth of the Infants and Toddlers and Preschool Special Education programs. She said while there has been improvement in the programs and outcomes, there has been a decrease in participation over the past year.
Keen said staff has been working to identify children in Kent County who need services and connect with their families. To learn more about these programs, go to www.kent.k12.md.us/SpecialEducation.aspx.
Also at the meeting, Couch announced that through clinics, 216 KCPS staff members have received COVID-19 vaccines. She when they finish the clinics, about 250 KCPS employees — 75% of the staff — will have been vaccinated.
Couch thanked the Kent County Health Department for providing the clinics at Kent County Middle School in Chestertown.
"So the vaccination is a positive move forward with us in our schools," she said. "I'm also pleased the health department has worked so heartily with us in terms of scheduling our staff."