Talbot County Public Schools is continuing to plan for the return to school in August. Dr. Kelly Griffith, Superintendent has convened a Recovery Plan Stakeholder group comprised of Teachers, Support Staff, Parents, Students, Administrators, County Government, County Board and various Community Partners. This group is reviewing survey results and other data to inform and help to refine planning for a safe return of both students and staff to schools in the fall. The workgroups will draft the recovery plan to include MSDE requirements, as well as clarify all stages for re-opening for parents, staff, students and the community. This plan will be presented to the Board of Education at their July board meeting.
This past spring when schools were closed, the Continuity of Learning model provided limited instruction on key standards of core content without a set schedule. In the Fall, schools will move to a “synchronous learning” model using several possible formats: totally virtual; totally physical; or a combination of both virtual and physical. Each offering will include a set schedule and accountability for both students and staff.
Synchronous learning is remote learning that happens in real-time with the interaction between the teacher and students that occurs in a face to face environment or in a virtual classroom setting, ie. access from home via web conferencing. With the understanding that no one knows what the status of the pandemic will be in the Fall, TCPS Administration must consider the following three possible scenarios in the planning:
Remote Synchronous Learning (Stage 1) – ALL students would be learning from home or other remote locations with learning materials that reflect comprehensive grade and subject level expectations, with a required daily class schedule and accountability.
Blended Synchronous Learning (Stage 2 and 3)– A hybrid delivery of instruction with a combination of remote synchronous learning and on-campus school with a modified number of students in school buildings (A/B Day or A/B Week) to adhere to social distancing recommendations.
In-Person Synchronous Learning (Stage 3) – Students attend school buildings each day with State recommended safety measures in place.
All of these scenarios will involve adherence to clearly defined safety protocols for collection of materials, the cleaning of schools, transportation equipment and other facilities, and nutrition as established by MSDE in collaboration with the MD Department of Health and the CDC Guidance. Our commitment to the safety and well-being of our staff and students is our highest priority.
In conjunction with Recovery Planning, the school district has also reviewed key efforts and accomplishments and use of resources as rapid advancements were made to the existing distance learning infrastructure.
“Overall TCPS was well-positioned to transition from a classroom learning environment to a distance learning model. Our district size combined with dedicated leaders and staff provided us with the agility to rapidly adopt this prototype,” reflected Steve Wilson, Technology Director. “Our ability to sustain this or a hybrid model will require teacher training, modifying the classroom to support distance learning, and advocate for elected officials to consider broadband as a utility that needs to be in accessible from every dwelling.”
In order to provide for a Synchronous / Asynchronous learning environment for all students and a remote work environment for essential staff and administrators, the Information Technology team embarked on a number of key initiatives as follows:
- Added a new profile and distributed 1800 iPads to students in grades K-5.
- Updated 2300 laptops that were already part of our take-home program.
- Ordered 280 additional iPads for PK students.
- Procured ZOOM Video conferencing software for administrative use.
- Activated Google Meet for students and staff to enable teachers to provide instruction and support to students.
- Provided online learning for teachers using the Frog learning management system and Google Meet.
- Made available Screen Castify and Jamboard applications as instructional resources.
- Added secure email addresses for 1100 middle school students
- Procured and distributed 175 personal hotspots for students with support from Talbot Family Network.
- Procured mobile hotspots for Areas that lack broadband support (Cradlepoint).
- Expanded coverage of school building wireless Access points to serve WIFI to adjoining parking lots and driveways.
- Added a Virtual helpdesk and provided onsite drop-off and repair services.
- Procured software to access devices in order to provide support services remotely.
- Deployed two dozen laptops and setup 40 VPN accounts to allow employees to work from home.
- Deployed 25 iPads for Instructional assistants to assist special education and elementary students.
- Added encryption software to SchoolMessenger communications platform to distribute digital report cards.
At the same time, Teachers, Administrators and Support Staff mobilized an entirely new work model, working either remotely or with social distancing measures in their assigned locations (ie., plant ops, custodians, etc.) and many were also volunteering with food distribution.
A team of nearly 200 volunteers has distributed more than 180000 meals and snacks to local children ages 2-18 since schools closed in March, feeding an average of 560 children per day (2 days per week).
Student services staff continued work on numerous initiatives to support families during this challenging time:
- Registered students for next year using a virtual/remote process.
- Checked in regularly with students and families, and continued to monitor needs for special populations like McKinney-Vento, Foster Care, Informal Kinship Care students.
- Provided CARE 2 and RISK 2 assessments as needed to students who had threatening or suicidal indications.
- Made referrals to the Department of Social Services (DSS) and assisted school staff with referrals for concerns about child abuse/neglect.
- Made referrals for mental health services as needed.
- Worked with school staff and families to get to the "root cause" of students who were not engaging in continuity of learning.
- TCPS has applied and will be applying for several funding sources to help offset the additional costs that have been incurred.
- Received an award of $896,148 from the CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund Program, Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. The funds will be used to offset incurred and expected ongoing costs related to sanitizing and cleaning facilities, acquiring additional technology hardware and software, providing students lacking internet with connectivity and paper-based learning materials in the interim, additional mental health services for students, and professional development for staff.
- Applied for a $63,000 grant from Talbot County to help offset the costs of sanitizing our facilities during the initial two week closure.
- Will be applying for a grant of $53,383 from the Education Stabilization Fund Program, Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund and are currently strategizing about where these funds can have the greatest impact.
- Will apply for other grants of as yet undetermined amounts under each of the recently announced GEER fund programs for technology needs and for tutoring and intervention with students.
- Will apply for a grant from FEMA for reimbursement for 25,200 snacks and dinners served from the beginning of the school closure through June 30th. Effective July 1st TCPS is only able to serve breakfast and lunch due to uncertainty about reimbursement opportunities for the snack and dinner meals. They had applied for but were not awarded a community development block grant which would have been used to continue serving a snack and dinner for the remainder of the summer meals program.
“Our team of educators has truly gone above and beyond in rising to meet the challenges they faced during this unprecedented time,” said Dr. Kelly Griffith, Superintendent. “To see them respond as they did with virtually no warning was truly an inspiration, and they have continued to demonstrate their commitment, creativity and resourcefulness as we work through our recovery planning.”