Rockville, MD--There are only 7 weeks of school left and the Mongtomery County Board of Education is considering yet again, another change to the current school schedule. Teachers and parents are pushing back against another upheaval to their students schedules.
After the April 20th meeting, the Montgomery County Board of Education decided that schools would not adopt 3-feet distancing, nor would they collapse the A/B alternating weekly schedule. MCPS Superintendent, Dr. Jack Smith, said the “disruption to the students’ experience is too great.
The disruption to the students’ experience is too great. In terms of changing schedules, changing teachers, changing peers. I don’t see that as a positive thing to our students overall.”—Dr. Jack Smith, MCPS Superintendent.
Teachers have had to remain flexible as re-entering to school buildings dates have changed over the last school year. They have had to change their teaching format from one that was once totally in-person, to entirely virtual, to one that is now simultaneous (teaching in-person and online at the same time).
At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, MCPS has made Wednesdays half days for elementary students and asynchronous for middle and high schools. During that asynchronous learning time, secondary teachers have provided check-in office hours to meet with students. Special education case managers have used that time to meet with the students on their caseload.
With the inordinate time it takes to plan for virtual instruction, Wednesdays have become the much-needed time for teachers to plan and collaborate with peers, meet with students, and develop the resources needed for teaching online. For many of the teachers, they have had to create all new material for their classes keeping in mind that even if and when they went back to in-person learning students would not be given handouts or packets. Everything would be done in person. The amount of time needed for planning grew exponentially when teachers began virtual instruction.
With parental concerns about the amount of screen time their children were facing, virtual Wednesdays gave students the much-needed break from screens. But now, with 7 weeks of school left, the Board of Education is once again considering a change, when their focus should be making sure everything is in place for full-time in-person instruction next school year.
Many elementary teachers have given up their traditional planning time to maintain safer conditions for specialists. Band teachers are unable to teach in person and have utilized Wednesdays to provide music classes to their students who have chosen to learn in person.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) and the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) have what is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). In that MOU says, “Educator will be provided 450 minutes per week for individually managed planning and preparation time, in addition to the unmanaged 60 minutes a day outside fo the scheduled duty day.
e.Educator will be provided with 225 minutes per week fr group managed planning and preparation time.”
Questions for the Board of Education:
- Are Wednesdays going to A Days or B Days for secondary schools?
- How will music classes take place for those elementary students who are learning in person?
- Where will teachers find the necessary planning time so that they can continue to effectively teach their students with simultaneous instruction?
- Aren’t Wednesdays for deep cleaning buildings?
- When and how would special education teachers reschedule the IEP meetings already scheduled for Wednesdays?
- How is changing the schedule maintaining equity?
Things for the Board of Education will need to keep in mind when considering in-person Wednesdays:
- It is yet another upheaval in the teacher, student, and parent schedules.
- Students prefer the break in the week to catch up on work, study, zoom check-in with teachers, etc.
- Virtual students need the break from screen time.
- The hours of planning time teachers have on Wednesdays are necessary to fulfill their agreed upon contractual hours and are crucial because of the difficult instructional mode that MCPS foisted on teachers because they have to teach in-person and virtual classes simultaneously.
As Mrs. O'Neill said at the last BOE meeting the logistics are a "1,000-piece puzzle at every school" and it's a "monumental task."
The time and resources it would require to make another huge shift in the schedule would be better used to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.
What do you think? Should MCPS make virtual Wednesdays a time for in-person instruction? Why or why not? Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading!