ELKTON — The superintendent of Cecil County Public Schools participated Wednesday in a telephone conference with U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, saying the men were "very receptive" to what he and other superintendents for Maryland's public schools had to say about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the schools.
Dr. Jeffrey Lawson said the senators were already aware of the need for both technology and access for students, especially those without a computer or internet access or both.
"They didn't seem to be as aware that we are struggling with the tenets of IDEA," he said of the program for students with disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has very strict rules in regard to a timeline for services. "The entire law is designed for face to face service."
Of course, that's problematic during a pandemic, where social distancing and shelter in place orders rule the day.
"We need some kind of relief," Dr. Lawson said.
Cecil County Public Schools closed March 13 by order of Gov. Larry Hogan. After two weeks, teachers began online instruction. Teachers and administrators delivered technology and instruction packets to students.
Like everyone else, Lawson does not know when Maryland will reconvene its public schools. It's kept him awake at night, he admits.
"For me, if I knew for sure the kids were coming back the week of April 27, that gives us 5 to 6 weeks to fall back into a rhythm," he said.
Pennsylvania schools were officially closed for the year Thursday.
Lawson knows that students, especially seniors and others in high school with college goals, are worried about their grade point average and class ranking. The superintendents shared their thoughts with the senators on that as well.
"One model is to average the grades of the first, second and third semesters, assuming there's a pass in the fourth," he said. Since this is a declared state of emergency he is assuming there will no discussion of making up the classroom days.
For Lawson and the others, this holding pattern is frustrating.
"But if we're going to go back give us a date and we'll make the tough decisions," he said.
One of the easier decisions, however, is the message he sent to all his teachers.
"We're not messing with our calendar," he said, noting no snow days had been used this year. Had they been in the classroom this week, Thursday, Friday and Monday would have been Spring Break vacation days.
They still are, Lawson said.
"I told the teachers to shut down today until Tuesday," the superintendent said.