Talbot teachers are readying to teach students remotely as Maryland extends its school closures until at least April 24 to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
State officials initially had ordered schools closed for two weeks beginning March 16; that closure was extended Wednesday until April 24 with the possibility of additional extensions depending on the status of the pandemic.
The Talbot County Board of Education heard an update on the school system’s response during its regular Wednesday night meeting, held by video conference to maintain social distancing.
Kelly Griffith, Talbot’s school superintendent, said the initial closure was announced Thursday, March 12, and staff worked very quickly to get “everything ready for every student to go home with their laptops, grade six through 12, laptops and chargers, and work downloaded.”
The school system also was able to make learning packets for reading, writing and math for all students to take home on Friday, March 13, the last day schools were open, she said.
Staffers at Easton Elementary School Moton packed up their classrooms and that weekend workers finished moving all of Moton into the new elementary school building.
Griffith said the initial closure called for schools to be closed for cleaning and sanitizing, setting up meals for students, and preparing shelters for emergency and hospital workers.
The school system has been providing meals to children, initially breakfast and lunch and now breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack.
The first day, 40 children were served; almost 700 are now being served on weekdays with CarePacks providing weekend meals.
“Schools have been closed for only eight days, it seems like it’s been a lot longer,” Griffith said.
With an extended closure, the schools now must meet the goal of continuity of learning and have been working on professional development and getting teachers to work on lessons to continue working on the standards of learning, she said.
With 1-to-1 capability in Talbot schools, staff also have gathered the school system’s iPads and have assigned those to every single student, Griffith said. Talbot schools “will be mobilizing those iPads sometime next week with chargers to our children.”
Helga Einhorn, assistant superintendent for instruction, said the school system’s curriculum staff has been meeting virtually with colleagues across state and with specialists from the state education department to identify challenges, best practices, and resources.
Schools are planning for continuity of learning — “the delivery of standards through assignments and activities to our students during a period of absence from our traditional instructional process in our schools,” she said.
Curriculum staff have been assessing what has been taught and the key learning to focus on in the fourth quarter to ensure students are ready for the next grade level or for graduation.
Contingency plans also are being developed for students who do not have access or who do not have reliable access to the internet, she said.
Griffith said parents will begin getting information on a daily basis “after this Friday to let them know where we are in our planning stages.”
“We want to thank our parents for being very patient and understanding during this time, but we also want to remind people that it is important to adhere to the social distancing … and trying to telecommute as much as possible,” she said.
She also noted the work of the school system’s custodial staff “for coming to work every day to clean and sanitize our buildings” and food service company Sodexo, which has “been amazing in getting food out to our students.
Griffith also thanked all the volunteers who have assisted in the meal distribution.
“It has really been a team effort and I’m really proud of the Talbot County public school team ….,” she said.