County releases “Return to Learn” plan for start of school year on Aug. 31


The first day of the new school year for Washington County students is Monday, August 31.

All students in grades Kindergarten through 12th grade will start the year doing full distance learning – online schooling. County school officials said that model will remain in effect “until it is safe for students to physically return to school.”

A full operational plan for county schools was posted on the Washington County Public Schools website ( on Friday, August 14.

“It continues to be a priority for WCPS to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to promote the health and wellness of the greater Washington County community. We encourage our families to continue social distancing, wear masks in public, limit group gatherings, and wash your hands frequently,” county officials have said.

The public can watch a video of an August 4 presentation about the county’s schooling plan through a link on the WCPS website.

Washington County’s “Return to Learn Plan” includes sample daily schedules for each grade level of student.

Elementary students, for example, would begin their learning day at 9 a.m.

A designated parent/teacher communication time is set in the day, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., in one sample plan.

Students would have an hour of “synchronous” instruction time with teachers in each core subject – meaning they would be in online communication directly with a teacher during that time. Students would also have 15-20 minutes of learning time in each subject that is on their own throughout the day.

Elementary student lunch time is set from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. under the county’s guideline.

Senior Middle and High School student schedules will vary by school, but one sample schedule put out by the county shows the student day beginning at 9 a.m. and including six 35-minute subject periods with 10-minute transition times between them. A one-hour lunch in included in the schedule, along with an afternoon block for tutoring or small group activities. The student day would end at 2:10 p.m. under the secondary guidelines.

Students who can’t access the “synchronous” virtual learning lessons because of a lack of internet access can be provided instruction material from the school until access is possible. Lessons can also be downloaded to be used on a student-issued device at the school.

Student attendance will be taken during the synchronous learning portion of the day as teachers note the participation of students.

Student meals will still be available at designated school sites. In Hancock, that site is the Hancock Middle-Senior High School at 289 West Main Street.

Additional details about strategies and guidelines are included in the 72-page “Return to Learn” document.

Local schools

Hancock Elementary Principal Jennifer Scarborough is asking parents of local students to make sure the school has a valid email for families as back-to-school planning gets underway.

“There will be lots of information sent out over the coming days from Hancock Elementary School and Central Office on a variety of topics,” the principal said in a social media post for the school.

Families should send an email to with the student’s name in the email to be sure they are on the school’s email list.

If parents or guardians have been receiving email about the school over the summer, they do not need to contact the school.

In light of the virtual start to the school year, Hancock Middle-Senior High School will not be hosting the Little Panther’s Preschool program in the fall due to the school buildings being closed to students.

Fall sports conditioning had begun for the Panther Football team and other athletes, but have been suspended since Maryland postponed high school fall and winter sports schedules.

Additional detailed information for local student families is available by contacting Hancock schools directly.