Board of education lays out timeline for Maryland schools to comply with new virtual learning guidelines

Even with several schools already back in session, Maryland State Department of Education board members voted on a new set of guidelines for local school systems on Tuesday, giving them until the end of 2020 to meet certain, online learning requirements.

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According to the recommendations passed, schools must be open for students at least 180 school days. All schools must include at least a total of six hours per day. Schools must have an average of 3.5 hours across the grades (K through 12) of synchronous instruction spread out over the course of the day.

Half day pre-K school day for each local school system must include a minimum of 1.5 hours of synchronous instruction spread out over the course of the half-day.

READ MORE: Maryland parents face frustrations as students return to virtual classes

MSDE will collaborate with local school Superintendents and provide technical assistance as they implement the minimum hours of synchronous instruction by the end of the calendar year. 

School systems that have indicated that they are not returning students in person until second semester should reevaluate their reopening plans by the end of the first quarter (after nine weeks) and submit to MSDE by the third week of November.

READ MORE: Md parents surprised by Hogan’s announcement to safely reopen schools, 3 days before virtual start

The vote comes after the State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon last week —proposed a minimum number of live online learning hours. She wanted school systems to meet that minimum by Sept. 28. 

But Board members decided to delay that vote until Tuesday in order to allow for more discussion to happen. 

Some parents tell FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan, it was a bit odd that the board of education decided to have the conversation a day after the virtual school year started in many areas.

“I think they had all summer long to figure this out,” said Melissa King. 

“I’m not sure what pressured the state to all of a sudden put out this message after all the decisions at the county level had already been made.” 

“I think that just mandating anything right now is asking a lot,” said Saba Ahmed.

“It’s kind of setting up expectations in a post beginning of the school year session when teachers have already come up with their plans and that leaves a little less room for flexibility.”

In a statement regarding the implementation of the new requirements, Montogmery County Public Schools said:

“We will be seeking clarity from the state to better understand the impact of the requirements/regulations on what we developed and was approved by Board of Education on Aug. 25.”

A spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools said the school system does not have a comment at this time.

In response to our inquiry about why the state board of education decided to lay out the virtual learning requirements a day after students went back to school, the board provided us a statement from the Maryland State Department of Education on late Tuesday evening saying:

“In May, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) provided guidelines on required days and hours of instruction. These guidelines were later revised in June. In July, at the request of superintendents, we established 13 requirements to better facilitate consistency across Maryland’s 24 local school systems, with plans due from those school systems in mid-August. We provided school systems an extension, as superintendents indicated more time was needed to meet with stakeholders and submit plans to local school boards for approval.
The Maryland State Department of Education is focused on helping each local school system meet the requirements approved by the State Board of Education regarding student engagement.  We will coordinate with all local systems on their plans for synchronous learning moving forward, to provide students a quality educational experience, and meaningful instruction.”