Md. lawmakers to debate all-virtual school option; MCPS considers next academic calendar

While there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding education during the coronavirus pandemic, state and local leaders are planning for the future.

One idea before the Maryland General Assembly would give students the option to enroll in full-time, virtual public school.

It would allow the state, a county school board or a public institution of higher education to create a tuition-free program that would be offered to students across Maryland.

Virtual schools would not be able to enroll more than 1% of school-aged children in each county.

“Now is the time to enable Maryland’s public schools to give students the option to thrive in virtual learning,” said Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga, who introduced the legislation. “Some students have thrived in the virtual learning environment and would like to continue.”

Szeliga, a former teacher who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, added that she also supports “our national and statewide focus on safely returning to in-person learning as soon as it’s possible.”

The legislation is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday in the House Ways and Means Committee.

On the local level, Montgomery County’s public school system has started considering calendar options for the 2021-2022 academic year, and will decide whether to start the year before or after Labor Day, which falls on Sept. 6.

One option would have classes starting on Aug. 30, 2021 and ending on June 14, 2022.

The option starting after Labor Day would have classes beginning Sept. 8, 2021 and ending June 21, 2022.

Typically, the county’s board of education would have already worked out the details for the upcoming academic year, but the whole process was delayed due to the pandemic.

“We have a compressed time frame,” said Essie McGuire, associate superintendent of operations for Montgomery County Public Schools. “We still want to hit all of those important markers including community feedback and community engagement.”

The board plans to discuss the calendar options further during a meeting on March 9 and will ask for input from the public from March 10 to March 19 before finalizing the calendar on March 23.

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