After months of development and planning, Talbot County Public Schools opened the 2020-2021 school year with all students attending classes virtually on September 8.
“I am so pleased with the results of the planning and tireless work behind the scenes that led to a successful start of the school year,” said Dr. Kelly Griffith, Superintendent. “We are working through a few technical challenges, but overall the day went extremely well, and we will remain RESILIENT!”
The District reports that 94% of students were in attendance for the first day. Schools are now reaching out to approximately 275 students who did not participate in their online learning Tuesday. “We believe this is mostly due to connectivity issues, which we will continue to address in the coming days,” Dr. Griffith added.
Most teachers were teaching in secure “Zoom” meetings from their classrooms. Intensive Professional Development prior to the first day of school enabled them to transition well to a fully synchronous virtual learning environment. The length of class time varied depending up student grade level, however all state mandated time requirements are being met.
“I thought the first day went exceptionally well,” said Megan Beaufait, Easton High Social Studies teacher. “It was exciting to see our kids’ faces again, to be back in front of a classroom and to see how eager and happy they all were to engage. We even had an unexpected fire alarm which made it even more memorable!”
David Cherry, Easton High math teacher and Talbot Teacher of the Year said, “Being able to reconnect with students, even virtually, was a blessing and the reason I became a teacher.”
“The first day went really well for us in Kindergarten! We were really excited to see the students and they were excited to see us,” said Amy Gardner, who was teaching from her brand new classroom at Easton Elementary School. “They were very interactive with us and each other, and they had great attitudes the entire time. We were really impressed!!”
Some teachers used creative ways to bring their classrooms to life. Donna Midcap, 5th grade teacher at Chapel District Elementary, made cardboard “students” to sit in the chairs in her classroom, but she also found the virtual teaching experience a positive one. “Seeing the kid’s smiling faces was refreshing. The kids were eager, engaged, helpful, and patient. What a way to be welcomed into the new school year!”
Next week, approximately 5% of the student population will return to school buildings for “face-to-face” learning as part of the district’s phase-in recovery plan. This will include students with special needs, English Language Learners, homeless students, those not engaged last spring, and students who do not have internet access. Dr. Griffith will continue to review County and State health metrics and consult with the Talbot County Health Officer daily to make decisions about future phases of the plan. The district will also ask ALL parent to commit to either continuing with virtual learning for the remainder of the semester or transitioning to face-to-face learning for second quarter.