Coronavirus Closure: What You Need to Know

Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon announced March 12 all Maryland public schools would be closed March 16-27 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maryland.

For several days leading up to the closure announcement, MCPS assured families it was preparing online instructional materials should schools be shut down, but many of the materials are geared towards students in grades K-8. Basic instructional materials are provided for on-level high school courses, but AP students are simply directed to their AP classroom pages, with materials needing to be unlocked by teachers. High school students can read more here: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/curriculum/contingency/high/highschool.aspx 

There is also a link to a page regarding AP exam date updates. As of right now, the College Board recommends that schools who are able to host their exams as scheduled. If schools closed for an extended period of time would like to push exam dates back, they are able to request late exam dates for the third and fourth weeks of May or even early June. It is not yet clear what Blake is planning to do with respect to testing dates. AP students can read more here: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap/news-changes/coronavirus-update?SFMC_cid=EM285330-&rid=46890920 

MCPS gave teachers relatively little warning to begin preparing for online learning and for some classes, continuing instruction remotely will prove to be a challenge. Some students in art classes, for example, do not have access to art supplies at home. 

Foreshadowing a closing, the Art Department developed a set of online lessons to be administered through Google Classrooms and told their students in advance that they would be taking everything home as if they were clearing out for the summer. Fashion teacher Katja Jimenez is going so far as to send students home with sewing machines and fabrics. She also says students will be expected to take pictures of their work and upload photos to their Classroom pages. 

“We’re just running Art through Google Classroom,” Ms. Jimenez says. “My kids [are] ready. They’ll be fine. It takes organization today, but we’ll get it done.” 

Given the short notice ahead of the cancellation and students being at various places in terms of course completion, every teacher is doing something slightly different for their classes. Many AP teachers have given some assignments to their students and told them to supplement said tasks with review for their exams. 

AP Comparative Government and World History teacher Stephen Cain says, “For the required courses, the county will come out with something that’s kind of made for everyone, but for the AP courses, the teachers have to decide how to help the students.”

For the duration of the closure, MCPS is freezing the grade book for Marking Period Three. Many teachers are communicating updates regarding plans for instruction via apps like Remind or Google Classroom. Make sure you check in with your teacher and/or check your Classroom page to stay on top of school work during this time. 

For those without reliable access to WiFi or Ethernet at home, Principal Bob Sinclair says that MCPS is providing hard copies of activities for students to work on, which they are distributing at food distribution sites for students who will not be able to eat if schools are closed. Please find the list of food distribution locations here: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/Coronavirus/COVID-19_Emergency_Closure_Meals_for_MCPS_Students.pdf. All Montgomery County Public Libraries and Recreational Facilities are closed. Mr. Sinclair says more information should be released from MCPS in the coming days.

The virus also means many cancellations and postponements of events. Blake’s production of Little Women has been canceled, the Music Department’s trips to Florida’s theme parks have been canceled with no certainty regarding refunds, the start of spring sports seasons have been postponed and all practices until then have been canceled, et cetera. 

Many questions have been circulating as to the closure’s effects on spring break. As of right now, no decision has been made regarding how the county will choose to make up the days lost, but Mr. Sinclair advises families to not cancel their spring break plans at this time. 

In his announcement Friday, Mr. Sinclair told Blake, “Pay attention to the MCPS website and social media. I know it’s a crazy time. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, make sure you’re cautious.” 

He also encourages students to practice good hygiene habits, including regular hand washing, avoiding contact with large quantities of people and those who are sick and staying home if you feel ill. Mr. Sinclair also let students know that building service workers will be cleaning the school in students’ absence. He advises students to keep checking Blake’s official social media accounts for updates and to be responsible online when posting content pertaining to the virus. 

We will continue to update you with more information as the state, county and school administration releases it. Stay safe Bengals.