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A second year of virtual learning to be offered by BCPS

Seth Sawyers/flickr

The Baltimore County Public Schools plans to offer a virtual learning program for a second year, beginning this fall.

The program was put in place this year for those families that did not want to risk COVID-19 in school buildings.

A second year of virtual learning will only be offered to the 3,000 students currently enrolled in the program. School officials are estimating 90% of them will return to virtual classrooms.

A survey found that students are not as excited as parents over the prospect of a second year of virtual learning. While 70% of parents want a second year, even if COVID transmission rates are low, only about 30% of students currently in the program said they want to continue. Another 43% said they might want to remain virtual.

Only 3% of parents surveyed have a negative view of virtual learning compared to 9% of the students in the program.

Doug Elmendorf, executive director of academic programs for the Baltimore County Public Schools, said if the COVID numbers continue to improve, they want those students who have been struggling with virtual learning to be back in the classroom.

Elmendorf said, “We want to get to the point where we are strongly encouraging, potentially even requiring a student to go back to in person learning for their best interest.”

That in-class requirement would not include struggling students with a medical condition that puts them at risk according to Elmendorf.

The survey, which was presented to the school board’s equity committee, showed there is a racial difference over why parents chose virtual learning for their children. The top reason Black families picked it was COVID. For white families, it was because their children work better online.

Board member Erin Hager noted that white families were more likely than Blacks to find virtual learning academically advantageous.

“Although it may be a good program overall, it may not be a solution to our inequities within our system,” Hager said.

The virtual learning program was supposed to be for one year. School officials said they received a grant that is allowing them to offer it a second year.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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