Weeks after Maryland’s school systems submitted to the state plans for virtual learning this fall, the state school board is looking at a proposal for a minimum level of live, online instruction time for students.
The proposal comes as school is already under way in some parts of the state and about to begin in others.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said the scheduling plan is coming too late and creates confusion, much like last week’s push by Gov. Larry Hogan for face-to-face learning.
The proposed scheduling guidelines would be in place by September 28. Bost said that needs to be delayed until after the first quarter to give the current school schedules a chance.
“Then let’s hear from educators and parents and students and see how it’s working,” Bost said. “What needs to be changed? How could they meet these guidelines?”
Bost said the student engagement plan was posted online over the weekend.
It touched off a firestorm of criticism on social media. Many of the comments were similar to one from a Baltimore County teacher who posted, “As a teacher and a parent I am frustrated.”
Much of the criticism was over the proposed requirement for full time pre-kindergarten students to have live, online learning for 3 hours each day. Baltimore County’s current plan calls for less than half of that.
Bost questioned whether it’s appropriate to have children that young looking at a computer screen for that long. Her concerns don’t end there.
“It’s also asking for 5 hours for our 9th to 12th graders, when in reality they may have the capacity to do more on their own, than face-to-face with educators.” Bost said.
The MSEA sent a letter Monday to Maryland School Superintendent Karen Salmon and the state board asking that no mandated scheduling changes be made until after the first quarter.
The letter also sharply criticized Salmon, charging the proposal is demoralizing teachers across the state.
The letter states, “It takes weeks and sometimes months to figure out what class each student should be in or the individual assistance that they need at any given time of the day; it takes countless hours to communicate these changes to families and respond to their concerns.”
A state education department spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
The proposed plan states that none of the local school systems have met the mandated school days and hours required by state law.
The state school board is expected to take up the issue Tuesday.