The following message was sent to the HCPSS community by Superintendent Michael Martirano on July 10, 2020:
At its Thursday, July 9 meeting, the Howard County Board of Education reviewed proposed options for the 2020-2021 school year, and made several important preliminary decisions. An additional Board work session has been scheduled for Thursday, July 16 at 4 p.m., and I anticipate additional decisions will be made. I will work with our staff to bring to the Board a recommended plan based on their guidance and parameters, and one that will bring certainty and predictability for our students and staff. Once the Board adopts a final plan, it will be presented to the Maryland State Department of Education for approval.
Last night’s Board actions allow staff to formalize a plan that is guided by three major priorities: ensuring the health and safety of students and staff, providing high quality instruction for all students, and being sure that we can support education delivery, safety, well-being and other services within our budget and other resource availability.
The Board took action on several important items last night.
- The 2020-2021 school calendar was modified, making Tuesday, September 8, 2020, the first student day and with school staff returning on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. Spring break will be shortened to April 2–6, 2021, and the last scheduled day of school is June 15, 2021 with possible inclement weather days after that date.
- The purchase of 6,500 additional chromebooks was approved to support achieving a 1:1 student to devices ratio for students in grades 6–12 and ensuring more elementary students have access to a system device, to remove technology barriers and help advance equitable student learning outcomes.
- The Board approved a modified, “4×4” semester schedule for the middle and high school levels. Students will have four, teacher-led courses in each semester, for a total of eight courses during the year. Each teacher would teach three courses per semester for a total of six courses in a year. The reduction of courses taken during a semester will help teachers and students manage workload and streamline synchronous sessions. The Board has not yet taken action on specific instructional delivery models for elementary, middle or high school.
I proposed removing the Digital Education Center, an option for a full-year, fully online model for consideration due to significant staffing challenges, disconnection from a student’s assigned home school, and limited course offerings.
Staff will continue to work on formalizing a plan for the 2020-2021 school year, which may include several items that were discussed last night.
These aren’t light decisions. Our proposed options considered the input and priorities of parents/guardians, students and staff members, as well as recommendations from the Recovery Plan Stakeholder Group and several other advisory groups. More than 16,000 parents/guardians, 17,000 students and 5,000 staff members provided feedback via our planning surveys and emails. The survey presentation and results, the fall reopening report and presentation, and a video of the presentation and the Board’s discussion are available online.
I encourage you to visit the HCPSS website and the comprehensive HCPSS Help site with answers to frequently asked questions. We will provide more details in the coming days and weeks to help support you as we get ready for the next school year. An additional Board work session has been scheduled for Thursday, July 16, at 4 p.m. to continue this discussion. Virtual meetings will be streamed live and may viewed on the HCPSS website, or on Comcast 95/Verizon 42.
I know you have many questions and I ask for your patience and understanding. HCPSS staff is working hard to ensure that we provide the best possible educational program for all of our students, while safeguarding the safety and well-being of our students and staff.
Thank you for your continued patience and support throughout this process.