Prince Frederick, MD-As of September 2, 2020, Calvert County students have started the virtual online learning experience. Calvert County teachers had the end of last year and some also had summer school to sharpen their skills with Schoology, social networking service, and online learning tool that the tri-county area has been using.

The year will begin with a different look to the board of education with the September 7th passing of former dedicated Board of Education President, William Jude “Bill” Phalen, age 79 of Huntingtown. Phalen, a Navy Veteran had been on the board since 1993.

“He was part of this district when it was going through it’s strongest period of growth with a lot of new folks moving in and new schools being built,” Calvert County school Superintendent Dr. Daniel D. Curry said in a telephone interview with The Southern Maryland Chronicle on Tuesday.

“He really enjoyed getting out there and was especially fond of band and chorus. We do have a new board member and he will join us on Thursday.”

September 24, 2020, will be the next board meeting. Curry, Vice President Inez Claggett, member Dawn Balinski, member Pamela Cousins, member Tracy McGuire, and student member Abigail Setzfand will be joined by new member and former County Commissioner, Pat Nutter.  

Enrollment numbers are down just a bit for Calvert County, with 15,000 enrolled in the public school system. Six hundred students are currently being homeschooled. In a recent board meeting, Curry said he would like to see those homeschooled come back into the public school setting at some point.

The paradigm shift in our society right now with the current pandemic is not making the decision an easy one to determine if and when students will return and in what fashion. Our nationwide crisis is ultimately up to those that use wisdom.

Curry was very pleased with the turnout last summer in the elementary schools; approximately 400 students attended summer school in those four weeks.

“That gave us an opportunity to understand the new protocol for bringing kids in and for safety,” Curry said. “With that being said, we started on September 2nd with everything online, and on September 3rd, we opened the internet cafés. Last week we started transportation for internet cafés. We’ve been offering to feed them school breakfast and lunch.

“This week we brought in some of our students who are in special programs, who really need to be involved in face to face learning; the online learning really wasn’t working for them.”

Curry said it’s been a matter of making a plan, adjusting that plan, and communicating as much as possible. Every child must be wearing a mask and if they do not have a mask, one will be provided.

As far as transportation to the internet café’s, the Calvert County Health Department has regulated that no more than 12 students to a bus; every other seat.

Curry said that the next steps are to bring in those students that participate in the career and technical academy.

“They really have to have the hands-on experience to gain their certification; so that’s a priority for us,” Curry stated. “The classrooms are limited to no more than 15 people in total, so 14 students.”

Curry mentioned that they will be fine-tuning the Hybrid learning approach and stated that no final unveiling dates are set in stone just yet.

All eyes are on St. Mary’s County public schools with the emergency shutdown of George Washington Carver Elementary School, with staff testing positive for COVID-19 on September 14th after attending a social event outside of St. Mary’s County.

This setback is on the tri-county area’s radar, especially in the Lexington Park, and Great Mills areas.

Curry stated that they also experienced a situation over the summer when an elementary school parent took their child for testing after concerns without sharing that with the school board.

Communication is vital at this time, especially with conflicting reports from the CDC [Center for Disease Control] among other media outlets. Seek information from the Maryland Department of Health at 410-767-6500 if you’re unsure how to proceed.

Calvert County will now be focusing on putting a format together with safety at the forefront. Plexiglas is being formatted and distributed in the classrooms as well as in front office areas.

It’s also important to know that the school system has the legal authority to address any misconduct that is found to be true as students learn online just as well as if they were learning at school property.

Teachers have already taken the time to go over school guidelines with their students, including appropriate dress codes and using the video feature when logging in. The feature may not be popular among students, but its necessary to be accounted for as present for class.

On a positive note, on October 8, the teacher of the year will be announced and Calvert High School’s physical education and health teacher Caitlin Fregelette is nominated.

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