PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MD — Prince George’s County students went back to school this week, but not in the usual way. Monday marked the first day of a semester’s worth of distance learning.
Along with pushing classes online, coronavirus has upended typical traditions and altered routine services. Here is Patch’s complete guide to navigating the virtual school year.
Table of Contents
School officials have stressed the importance of communication while students are out of the classroom. Prince George’s County Public Schools will disseminate all major updates on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
Families should bookmark their school’s website, which will offer more localized updates. School webpages are posted here.
Technology also plays a key role in the school board’s communication. Officials say students should keep an eye on their school email. Students can login to their email at this site and reset their password here.
Prince George’s County Public Schools supplied a laptop to students in need of a device. Those small laptops, called Chromebooks, require a short set up. The steps are listed at this link.
The school system says it has distributed more than 60,000 devices since April. About 70,000 more are coming this fall, it added. PGCPS has about 136,500 students.
The county recognizes that there may be some technical difficulties, however. Families can call the Distance Learning Hotline at (240) 696-6229 with any questions about technology, instruction or student support. That call center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If guardians need in-person tech support, they can visit one of the county’s nine Parent Support Centers. Appointments are required at these facilities. Families can make a reservation online or call the Distance Learning Hotline to book a time slot. Appointments must be made at least 90 minutes in advance.
Masks are required on site, and all visitors will have their temperature checked upon arrival. Anybody with a temperature greater than 100 degrees will be denied entry.
To minimize potential coronavirus exposure, students are not allowed at the Parent Support Centers. Families should make alternate child care arrangements during their session, the school board advises.
Distance learning requires an internet connection. Some families do not have Wi-Fi, however. PGCPS partnered with the Comcast and Verizon to supply internet to families in need. More details are available through the Distance Learning Hotline.
PGCPS assembled an online dashboard with all of its coronavirus information. School officials recommend bookmarking this site to reference throughout the year.
Students can access their schedules and assignments through a program called SchoolMax. The login page is available here.
Though classes will be online this semester, the county still sent out school supply lists. PGCPS recommends keeping these items on-hand.
The school system started airing elementary school lessons on its TV station. The content will cover reading, math, science, social studies, art, dance, music, physical education, language immersion and Montessori Moments.
The lesson schedule is published on the PGCPS website. Students can tune in with Comcast’s channel 96 or Verizon’s channel 38. The county will also stream the classes online.
Virtual learning can be challenging for everybody involved. The county offered these tips for students and parents to make it easier to work from home.
PGCPS suggests setting up an area for students to complete their schoolwork. Here are some ideas for how to optimize an at-home learning space.
Families can also find out how to build a robust learning environment by attending a free webinar with the Kennedy Krieger Institute. The event starts at 7 p.m. this Thursday.
Interested attendees must RSVP in advance to [email protected]. The conference will take place at this Zoom link. The Meeting ID will be 983 5775 2206.
Free breakfasts and lunches will still be offered to qualifying students. Families can apply for free and reduced meals here.
Most all schools will serve as a meal pickup site on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. All meals will be prepackaged and will have enough food for multiple days. More information, including the participating locations, is available at this link.
PGCPS will reevaluate the coronavirus situation as the year closes. If it is safe to do so, the board of education will offer optional hybrid learning to students in the spring semester.
That hybrid model would feature two days of in-person instruction and three days of distance learning. If offered, families would have from Dec. 1 to Dec. 18 to opt into the hybrid plan, which would start on Jan. 28. Full-time virtual classes will still be available for students who prefer to stay home.
PGCPS has already said that it will not offer completely in-person instruction at any point during the 2020-2021 school year. Before and after care will reopen at 50 percent capacity whenever schools permit the hybrid option.
Thursday afternoon, state leaders recommended that counties track their positivity rate and new infections-per-capita to determine whether they can safely reopen schools. They say jurisdictions should aim to keep their seven-day positivity rate below 5 percent. Gov. Larry Hogan urges counties to consider a hybrid schooling system when they meet this threshold.
State officials also advise districts to shoot for a weekly average of less than five new coronavirus cases-per-day per 100,000 people. Public schools may only open for expanded in-person instruction when they reach this goal.
Prince George’s County’s most recent data clock the positivity rate at 4.37 percent, which is 1.11 percent higher than the statewide clip. The jurisdiction fell under the 5 percent benchmark for the first time on Aug. 19. The local positivity rate topped out at 41.98 percent on May 2.
While the county meets the percent positive guideline, it does not meet the new infections per capita benchmark. Between Aug. 16 and Aug. 22, which is the last full week on record, Prince George’s County averaged 11.44 new cases-per-day per 100,000 people.
The county must average less than 45.47 new coronavirus infections-per-day over a rolling week to meet the state’s per-capita suggestion. Prince George’s County has averaged 106 new cases-per-day during the last seven reported days.
The county has thein the state, with 26,215. The virus has killed 769 county residents.
Prince George’s coronavirus-related hospitalizations have plateaued as of late. The virus had 60 Prince George’s County residents in the hospital during the last recorded week. Hospitalizations hit a recent low of 45 in the week of July 5. Since then, they have fluctuated between 49 and 60.
Fewer than 69 coronavirus patients have been in the hospital at a time since the week of June 21. More than 240 people were hospitalized in Prince George’s County on the pandemic’s peak during the week of May 3.
Words Of Wisdom
PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson offered her best wishes in a YouTube video on Sunday night. Her welcome back message is viewable below.
Have a story idea? Please contact me at [email protected] with any pitches, tips or questions. Follow me on Twitter @JacobBaumgart and on Facebook @JacobBaumgartJournalist to stay up-to-date with the latest Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County news.
This article originally appeared on the Bowie Patch