August 23, 2021

School Updates From Recent Legislative Committee Meeting

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With students headed back to school, leaders provided updates at the recent Joint Appropriations and House Ways and Means Committee meeting. Here’s an overview with important highlights regarding student engagement:

Joint Appropriations and House Ways and Means Committee
August 12, 2021

Mohammed Choudhury, State Superintendent of Schools

  • Returning to full-day, 5 days a week in-person learning for all students in all 24 local school systems
  • Every school system will offer in-person learning for the upcoming school year
  • Each local school system, nonpublic school, and childcare program may set their own policies and procedures
  • Strongly recommend unvaccinated people to continue to wear face covering in all indoor settings
  • We are recovering all the learning loss. What are we recovering to? Returning to “how it was before” won’t be sufficient for student growth
  • Doubling down on social and emotional health of students to create proficient learning
  • American Rescue Plan
    • 3 priorities: Accelerating student engagement, Supporting mental/social-emotional health, Addressing disrupted education
  • Virtual Learning
    • Currently, only 1-2% of students will be participating in virtual learning during 2021-202
    • 22 of 24 local school systems offering a virtual option
    • Programs have strong requirements; must be approved by MSDE
    • MSDE providing technical assistance/support
    • Many virtual offerings don’t get it done when it comes to student achievement/learning
    • Very specific students will be better with virtual learning than others
    • Self-discipline; independent, effective communicators; socioeconomic status; intrinsically motivated; good time-management; etc.
    • Strategies in place to provide assistance to students engaged in virtual learning and ensure they are in a successful environment
    • Tutoring (virtual and face-to-face)
    • Evaluated individual student attendance and achievement data
    • Mentors
    • Virtual help desk for parents/guardians
    • Constantly evaluating, implementing best practices

Sean Bulson, Superintendent of Harford County

  • Virtual Learning
    • Have to make sure we have the right students in virtual
    • Constantly evaluating; laser focus
  • Health is still the primary focus
  • Still concerned about enrollment
  • Taking the implementation and the blueprint very seriously
  • School superintendents should treat masking like any other disciplinary issue/infraction
  • Health services among young students
    • School nurses are very overworked currently
    • Finding ways to use federal funds/grants to give back to nurses
  • Discussing teacher vaccinations; would like to see it be a state initiative

Cheryl Bost, President of Maryland State Education Association

  • Must prioritize the health and safety of all those going back to schools
  • A return to normal is not good enough, must use funds and opportunities to better students
  • Goal is to open school in-person and stay in-person throughout the year
  • Vaccines
    • Have been pushing for everyone who is eligible to receive the vaccine to get vaccinated
    • Prepared to work with state and local leaders to develop protocols by which all employees either have proof of vaccination or are subject to frequent testing
    • Coronavirus vaccine would need state initiative, as other vaccines are state statute
    • Everyone should be wearing a mask, following CDC guidelines
  • Need additional support for employee social and mental health

Diamonte Brown, Baltimore Teachers Union

  • Engagement is important for going back to school
  • How to improve engagement; reopening input and feedback sessions
  • Must be intentional about staff that focus on engagement and meeting students’ mental health needs
  • Haven’t surveyed members about vaccine mandate; no date for when that survey goes out; communication among all parties is key

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