Meals, Laptops, Schoolwork Given By HCPSS During Extended Closure

Kristin Danley-Greiner

This article originally appeared on the Columbia Patch

HOWARD COUNTY, MD — On Wednesday, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that all public schools will remain closed until April 24. Brian Bassett, spokesperson for the Howard County Public School System, confirmed to Patch that the district will continue to offer free meals to youth through April 24 and will be expanding site offerings. Also, spring break April 6 through April 13 will still be held for students; however, school staff will engage in professional learning activities during that week.

Beginning March 30, HCPSS food distribution is expanding from nine to 12 locations and will include snacks in addition to three meals per day. Beginning April 3, meals to sustain children through the weekend will be provided on Fridays at all locations except Forest Ridge and Monarch Mills apartments, and Bethel Christian Academy.

Locations are:

  • Howard High School, 8700 Old Annapolis Road, Ellicott City
  • Oakland Mills Middle School, 9540 Kilimanjaro Road, Columbia
  • Swansfield Elementary School, 5610 Cedar Lane, Columbia
  • Cradlerock Elementary School/Lake Elkhorn Middle School, 6680 Cradlerock Way, Columbia
  • Talbott Springs Elementary School, 9550 Basket Ring Road, Columbia (Beginning March 30)
  • Wilde Lake Middle School, 10481 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia(Beginning March 30)
  • Laurel Woods Elementary School Parking Lot, 9250 North Laurel Road, Laurel
  • Ducketts Lane Elementary School Parking Lot, 6501 Ducketts Lane, Elkridge
  • Bushy Park Elementary School Parking Lot, 14601 Carrs Mill Road, Glenwood
  • Monarch Mills Apartments, 7600 Monarch Mills Way, Columbia
  • Forest Ridge Apartments, 5890 Stevens Forest Rd, Columbia
  • Bethel Christian Academy, Campus 1, 8455 Savage Guilford Rd., Savage(Beginning March 30)

There will be no meal service April 10 or April 13. Meals for those days will be distributed April 9 with instructions for storage and preparation.

Bassett also told Patch the district is working on a continuity of learning plan, sorting through logistics and ensuring that online instruction can be made available to all students. On March 13, parents received resources to use at home with their students during the initial two-week closure period.

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On March 30, students will log into Canvas and receive their weekly assignments for all instructional areas. Throughout the remainder of the week, students will have opportunities for live virtual check-ins with teachers. The majority of each day will be designated as time for students to complete assignments. Assignments will be turned in for feedback on Fridays.

Resources can be found on the HCPSS Continuity of Learning website and are organized by grade and/or course. Print copies will be made available at all HCPSS food distribution sites starting today. These additional materials will not be collected or graded.

Also, the district ordered 20,000 new Chromebooks and directed staff to begin gathering more than 15,000 Chromebooks from school buildings in order to equip as many students as possible who may not have a device at home. However, the new purchases are backordered and the district does not expect to receive them until mid-May. Therefore, the district asks that all HCPSS families complete the HCPSS Student Technology Survey to determine who should receive a laptop.

"These purchases were not funded in our current budget so we will be looking for savings in other areas of our budget, redeploying existing funds where possible and continuing to monitor the possibility of state reimbursement for these purchases. It is also likely that we may need to use funds from the HCPSS unassigned fund balance. These savings were intended to reduce our historic health fund deficit and we have informed the board and the county of this possibility," stated HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano in a statement

"This is an unprecedented situation, with many unanswered questions and issues that still must be addressed. We also acknowledge that the deployment of distance learning for 59,000 students and 8,000 staff within a short time frame will lead to some hiccups. I ask for your patience and support as we implement these next two phases," Martirano added. "I ask for your flexibility as teachers rapidly adapt to the demands of a new instructional model, often while becoming acclimated to new technology and while balancing the same demands of caring for their own children at home."

Martirano added that he and other superintendents across the state are working with the Maryland State Department of Education to address baseline expectations of what districts will be required to provide, possible changes to graduation requirements and the impact it could have on the plans of current seniors, expectations on delivering special education services and support, requirements for grading and other issues.

"I also know that many of our families have questions that we have not been able to answer during this unprecedented closure. All 24 Maryland school districts are implementing continuity of learning that is unique to that district, driven by available technology and resources," said Martirano.