By Charlie Kannapell
As COVID-19 continues to spread around the world, Virginia became the second state in the United States to fully close down all public schools for the remainder of the school year, as announced by Virginia Governor Ralph Northrum on March 22nd. Three days later, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a similar decision to extend the closure of public schools, not to the end of the year as Virginia had, but for another month through April 24th.
Following Governor Hogan’s announcement, MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith released a message to the MCPS community addressing the county’s plans regarding how education will proceed, as the county accounts for 127 of Maryland’s 424 total cases of the virus. Dr. Smith assured that the county would strive to create the most realistic educational experience for students as possible, acknowledging “It is important to know that this will not be the same experience students have in school buildings. However, it will provide continuity of learning while our school buildings are closed.”
As students finished their second week out of school, the county noted that progress is being made towards determining a plan for regular instruction and learning from home: “Part of that plan involves ensuring students with real need have access to Chromebook laptops and the internet.” Starting on March 26th, the county will be distributing laptops to students in need to ensure that all students in the county are able to access instruction from home, adding that MCPS also plans on distributing “a limited number of mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices that provide access to the internet” at a later date. Comcast is offering free internet access through its Internet Essentials Program for families without access at home. Laptop distribution will take place in all high schools and many elementary schools across the county. Though the decision to extend school closures “is hard for our families,” Dr. Smith said, “this is the right decision to ensure everyone’s safety as we combat the spread of COVID-19.”
For information about the distribution of Chromebooks, click here.