Local Education

What you need to know about Prince George’s public schools this year

Washington Post reporters answer questions to help parents and guardians navigate the pandemic school year.

What kind of learning are the schools offering: in-person, fully remote or hybrid?

Learning is all-virtual through the end of first semester, Jan. 29, 2021. The plan is here.

Are there plans for in-person learning, possibly with a hybrid approach, in the future?

A hybrid approach that would bring students on campus part of the week could be offered as an option for the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, if health conditions allow. Plans are expected to be announced in December.

What has the school system done to provide devices to students?

Tens of thousands of loaner Chromebook laptops have been distributed, and the school system expects to have a device for each student this school year.

How strong an Internet connection is needed to take part in remote learning, and where can families get such a connection if they don’t have one now?

A standard service connection is needed. The school system is helping families acquire Internet access through partnerships with Verizon and Comcast.

How do parents or students get support if they have technology issues?

Parent support centers” are being opened to help families with technology needs. Parents may call 240-696-6229 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, starting Aug. 31, for live assistance on technology or instructional issues. Families may also call their child’s school.

What is the length of the remote school day?

Each school creates its own schedule, but the school day is about 6 hours 10 minutes for elementary school students and 6 hours, 40 minutes for older students, according to sample schedules. Schedules include live instruction, prerecorded sessions, independent practice and multiple breaks, including for lunch.

Are exceptions to all-virtual learning being made for students, including those in special education, to come to campus in small groups?

No. Students in special education will be part of breakout (small group) sessions with special educators during live virtual instruction. Small group instruction for intervention or enrichment will also be provided virtually, as will meetings on individualized education plans and 504 plans with parents of students with disabilities.

Will teachers be teaching from home or from their classrooms?

Teachers have the option to give lessons from home or classrooms. In schools, they will follow state and CDC guidelines on social distancing.

How much real-time instruction is there?

Students will have live and prerecorded instruction each day. According to state data, 20 to 22.5 hours a week for grades 4 to 12, and just under 14 hours a week for prekindergarten to grade 3.

How is attendance being tracked?

Teachers take attendance in the morning and after lunch for elementary school students. For older students, teachers can track attendance in several ways: by taking roll, using Zoom reports or using the first assignment of the day as a check-in.

Is grading different from in a typical year?

No, grading will return to the traditional system of letter grades.

How are art, music and physical education taught to elementary school children?

They will be taught through live and prerecorded sessions. Students will be provided with materials needed for each course and have access to instruments.

How long are high school sports postponed?

Traditional athletics are suspended for first semester, but school officials are offering a virtual sports program that includes webinars and other remote activities. In December, a decision will be made about sports during the second semester.

If students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, how will they get those lunches?

They are available at most school campuses. Prepackaged meals for the first two days of the week are distributed on Mondays, and meals for the latter three days are given out on Wednesdays. Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Do the schools offer any child-care options for working parents or school employees?

The before- and after-school program is closed during distance learning. It is expected to resume, with reduced capacity, when in-person learning begins. The school system is working with local nonprofit groups to develop other child-care solutions.

Teachers are allowed to bring their children to school when they work if needed.

My child needs to see a school mental health specialist or counselor. How will those visits take place?

Professional school counselors and mental health coordinators will provide evening services virtually for students.

Has the school system curriculum changed as a result of the pandemic? Is the material being covered the same as in other years?

Standards for each content area have not changed but curriculum documents were modified to allow for technology integration and other considerations in a virtual setting.

Will standardized tests take place?

School system assessments will continue during distance learning. The state has asked school systems to give diagnostic assessments at the beginning of the year. Prince George’s will give benchmark assessments after each quarter.

Illustrations by iStock.

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