How I Would Have Voted
A November Return to the Classrooms
Is the Wrong Idea at the Wrong Time
In the history of the Anne Arundel County School system, the week of October 5 will be noted as one of the most turbulent to date. The Board of Education (BOE) met on three consecutive evenings to discuss the superintendent’s plan for returning students to in-person learning. The “hybrid” plan, which includes a combination of in-person and virtual learning, will begin with bringing early elementary children to classrooms on November 16. Struggling with unaddressed, related issues, the BOE voted to “support” but not “approve” the superintendent’s plan. Five members voted to support, one abstained, and three voted against it. Since the final BOE vote, there has been a huge outpouring of public concern from parents and teachers.
As a BOE member, I would have voted against supporting the hybrid plan because I believe the plan is significantly flawed and does not serve children, families, or teachers.
First, I believe Superintendent Arlotto’s plan is a huge disruption to learning just as students and teachers have finally begun to settle into a rhythm with online classes. With pre-kindergarten through second grade returning to school just before Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, there will be little time for all to settle into yet another new routine before January.
Second, teachers were not consulted on this plan but were informed at the last minute. A nagging question: Are there sufficient numbers of teachers, teachers' aides, and substitutes who feel safe to return to in-person teaching? How will a shortage be addressed? And given that teachers face the risk of having their health status change, are there sufficient long-term substitutes to take over if that should happen?
Third, the plan ignores standards of student equity. There are specific groups that have the deepest needs for in-person learning, including special education students, vocational and technical students, English language learners, and children without necessary resources at home to support their virtual learning. To address equity, we must meet the needs of these groups first before attempting to return an entire student population to school buildings.
My BOE position would be to continue virtual learning through the first semester while bringing back the targeted groups that have the greatest needs for in-person learning. And then in January implement a fuller return to in-person learning. All large Maryland counties have chosen to pursue this course which I believe is the wisest path to ensure safety and the best learning outcomes.