by Kate Shunney
Hancock students have spent the majority of this school year doing their schoolwork away from classrooms, and that situation will continue longer than earlier planned.
Washington County Public Schools officials on Monday announced that students throughout the county will continue to do their school from home until at least January 26.
Previously, the school board said January 19 was the earliest target for getting students back in classrooms.
Washington County’s COVID-19 cases have shot up significantly over the last month, making it one of the hotspots for the virus spread in the state of Maryland.
School officials said that is the reason for extending distance learning further.
“Washington County’s community health metrics continue to climb well beyond the recommended guidelines for reopening schools to students determined by the State of Maryland. In addition to the metrics, WCPS must also consider the ability to operate schools with adequate staffing,” school officials said on Monday.
The state has calculated that Washington County has 93.73 cases of the respiratory disease per 100,000 residents. That’s more than double the statewide rate of 42.82 cases per 100,000 people.
Schools will look to reopen buildings and classrooms when health metrics return to a manageable level, county officials have said.
“WCPS believes students will be most successful when they are learning in our schools with their peers and educators. We are optimistic that our community’s collective efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will contribute to declining health metrics in the days and weeks ahead,” school officials said.
Families with public school students have access to a “Distance Learning Family Portal” through the Washington County Public Schools website. It has links and information to help students and their parents work through academic lessons and using Google Classroom and other platforms. The website also has links to school counselors, mental health information and meal site details. Students continue to have access to free meals through the county’s feeding programs.
“We are committed to working through the pandemic with our learning community for the benefit of students,” school officials said in their announcement.
County school staff are also available to help students after the school day with questions about assignments, applications, and websites on Monday – Thursday from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. Families can reach a School Help Hotline at the following numbers:
Modified practices for winter sports can begin no sooner than January 23, the school board has said. That could push the first sports fames to February 12, dependent on health metrics.
“In the meantime, winter sports teams will continue to conduct practices virtually. Coaches and athletic directors will communicate with student athletes and families regarding practice and competition arrangements closer to the time of in-person activities,” said Washington County officials.
More details about distance learning are available on wcpsmd.com.