Homework takes on new meaning as school districts in Virginia, Maryland try distance learning for first time

Homework has taken on a new meaning as most schools kids in the D.C. region have been out of the classroom and at home now for a month as school districts have shut down to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

Many schools have even shifted to distance learning, but a majority of them are trying this for the first time.

That includes several school systems in Virginia and Maryland. 

Coronavirus by the numbers in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Fairfax County Public Schools, for example, begin their online distance learning program for the first time on Tuesday.
 
Lynette Russo, a high school history teacher said that high school teachers will be doing live online sessions following a bell schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Teachers have had several trainings on how to give online lessons using a program called ‘Blackboard Collaborate’ which she added is a bit of a learning curve because a lot of them have never used it before. 
 
Russo also said that students will be live with their teachers for 45 minutes per class and the rest of the work will be for them to complete on their own for which they will be supplied with the lessons.

“It is not a grade for the fourth quarter, it is going to be a no mark,” explained Russo about grading. “However the only work that they do or finish can improve their grade in a positive way and not impact them negatively.”

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Prince William County Public Schools are in the fourth phase of virtual learning. 

Ashley Hinkle, an instructional coach, said that parents can expect much more simplicity than what they probably were anticipating. The school system is not expecting parents to replicate the typical school day.
 
“We’re not really implementing any brand new learning but we are just taking the learning that’s already taking place and we are enhancing it and maximizing it, trying to ensure the mastery from our students,” Hinkle said. 

Officials with Loudoun County Public Schools said that on Monday all of their administrative staff and teachers had been in training for Wednesday’s launch of distance learning.

Teachers will provide distance learning specifically for their students that includes a focus on new skills and knowledge.

Grades 3-12 teachers will provide synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities through Google Classroom.

K-2 teachers will have the flexibility to provide optional synchronous learning opportunities as well as offline learning opportunities through ParentVue or other forms of communication previously established with their students’ families.

Additionally, packets of material for English and math learning experiences will be mailed to families of K-2 students every two weeks beginning April 15.
 
“Some video lectures or teaching would be really nice so that kids can be taught the lesson by the teachers,” said Rana Jazzar a parent in Loudoun County. 
“I have three kids and they all learn very differently.”

In Maryland, Prince George’s County Public Schools also begin their distance learning online on Tuesday using Google 
Classroom.

Students will earn a Pass (P) or Incomplete (I) grade at the conclusion of the fourth quarter. Final grades will represent a letter grade from the first three quarters and an explanation included on all transcripts that fourth-quarter grades were earned remotely.

The school system has committed $2 million to cover the cost of internet access for families and will distribute Chromebooks to students in need.

Wifi access points at several schools will be available starting Apr. 14 for anyone with a PGCPS email account to log on from the school parking lot or within close proximity to the school.