Hybrid Model Frequently Asked Questions
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Positive COVID Cases in the Schools
The Maryland Department of Health and the Frederick County Health Department recommended that school systems only report outbreak data in order to ensure confidentiality of individual health information. The Maryland Department of Health has a dashboard which shows every outbreak by school in Maryland.
However, FCPS recently received permission to create a dashboard that will identify the number of positive COVID-19 cases by staff and students in each school beginning in January. The data will be updated weekly and the trend data will be available for each school and the school system.
When a staff or student reports a positive test for COVID-19, that person is interviewed by either the FCPS Health Specialist or a FCHD Health Technician to identify close contacts. Close contacts within the school setting are notified and asked to quarantine.
It is very important that anyone who is contacted about a positive COVID-19 case share as much information as possible with the contact tracer. This is critically important to help us reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
Since the schedule for hybrid instruction and virtual instruction are the same, any staff member or student who is in quarantine will still be able to engage virtually. Administrators will have a substitute teacher or support staff member supervise students in the classroom and the teacher will direct students from the virtual setting.
An outbreak is defined as any two positive cases that are “connected.” This connection is identified by location and the time of the positive test.
When an outbreak is identified, FCPS will work with the Frederick County Health Department to determine the need for closure. In most cases, quarantining for students and staff in the same classroom will be the likely step. Based on the data available to the FCHD, it may be recommended to close a school. This process is similar to the process that has been used in daycare centers for many months.
Staff who are in quarantine will be allowed to use COVID leave instead of their personal sick leave.
Transitioning to the Hybrid Model
Dr. Alban is working collaboratively with Dr. Brookmyer, Director of the FCHD, to monitor positivity rates in the community and the number of cases per 100,000. They also look at the number of positive cases of COVID-19 in the schools and whether or not there are outbreaks.
Administrators have been planning the logistics to ensure that students are socially distanced in classrooms and hallways. Special procedures for entering and exiting the building will be implemented.
Hand sanitizer dispensers are located in every classroom and in various locations across the school. Students will be reminded to wash hands frequently and to avoid touching their faces.
It will be required to wear masks at all times while in the school. There will be disciplinary consequences for anyone who does not comply with this requirement. Students will only be allowed to remove masks while eating.
These safety precautions are explained and can be found in the following documents:
- FCPS Face Covering Guidance in School Buildings
- Reopening Building Operational Plans
- Transportation Guidelines
- Student Health and Safety and COVID-19 Response Plan
Each school is determining how to safely provide lunch for students. Seating in the cafeteria will be socially distanced and therefore, capacity will be limited.
Administrators are using the information from the parent and staff intent form to determine staffing assignments and classes for students. While they will do their best to keep students with their current teacher, this may not always be possible.
Any student who participates in the hybrid model will be in school for 2 days and attending virtually for 3 days. The teachers for hybrid sections will be teaching students in the classroom and teachers attending virtually at the same time for part of the day. This is called “concurrent teaching” and a video showing how this works can be found at:
Students who are participating in the virtual only model may be grouped with students in the hybrid model or they may be assigned to a class with only students engaging in the virtual model. This depends on the number of students and staff at each school. School principals will be better able to respond to this question once new class assignments have been determined in early January
Due to the capacity limitations in classrooms with social distancing in place, it will likely not be possible for a student to switch from virtual to hybrid. If a student was supposed to begin in the hybrid model and now wants to go completely virtual, it will be possible as long as that student remains in the same class group as assigned for the hybrid model.
School staff can obtain PPE through the FCPS warehouse. Appendix B explains the different types of PPE, purpose and ordering information. special requests for PPE that are not on the document can be made through Central Office, and a determination will be made if it can be purchased and the procedures involved. Each classroom must have a hand sanitizer dispenser, spray bottle of cleaner and a microfiber towel. The general guideline for determining the number of face coverings to order is enough face coverings for 10 percent of the school’s student population. It is anticipated that most students will supply their own face coverings. The number of gloves stocked by the custodial staff is sufficient to meet the needs in each building. The warehouse has sufficient stock of gloves to replenish school inventories upon request.
See the Logistical Planning Guide - Personal Protective Equipment – Appendix B.
It is important to remember that many central office employees have been working in our buildings since March 2020. Central office staff who were teleworking returned to the buildings on January 27. In departments where social distancing is not possible, staff are using rotating schedules.
Parents and educators rightfully fear the regression of children’s academic skills stemming from school closures and disrupted instruction during the pandemic. There is evidence emerging that indicates that children are already falling behind in some subjects. A recent report describes racial disparities in learning loss. Further, school provides peer social interaction and structured routines for children critical to their well-being. Research indicates that students are experiencing high rates of depression and anxiety symptoms during the pandemic. Pandemic isolation, including school closures, may put students at higher risk for long-term depression and anxiety in the future. School closures also disrupt the delivery of other school-based services important to children and families such as school meals, mental health and psychosocial services, supportive therapies, and other health care services.
During the pandemic, circumstances can change rapidly. If the Frederick County Health Department identifies any public health concerns that warrant a change in our plans, we will announce that information as soon as possible.
The only option to return to a four- or five-day school year depends on the social distancing requirement of 6 feet being changed. As long as the 6-foot social distancing requirement is in effect, the hybrid model will be our only option.
The state requirement is for 3.5 hours of synchronous instruction. During a traditional school day, some of the time (6 hours) is for students who are doing independent or asynchronous work. This same time has been built into the design of the schedules. Further, the in-person day during hybrid is only 5 hours such that students who remain virtual have additional protected time with the teacher at the end of the in-person day, again to meet the state's required 3.5 hours of synchronous instruction for each and every student.
Teachers have been given training to support the use of concurrent teaching. Many teachers used this model during small group instruction in the first semester and have offered suggestions for their colleagues to use. I have seen many teachers using concurrent teaching in a very effective manner.
Teachers and students will be following a hybrid schedule for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Sample schedules can be found here: https://www.fcps.org/update
While at School
Revise master schedules and assign class locations to minimize movement as much as reasonably possible. Administration should seek to reduce hallway traffic by 50 percent. Develop school specific plans for special populations, such as pre‐kindergarten, special education specialized programs, and English learners. Order appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to adequately address the immediate needs of the staff and students. Ensure mask designs/decoration adhere to BOE policy 439, Dress Code for Students (Appendix A of the Logistical Planning Guide)
Students and staff follow visual cues including signage, floor and wall decals, and colored tape indicating physical distancing parameters and directing traffic flow through building entrances, exits and other common areas.
Playgrounds are open for use during the school day for students. Administration work with teachers to strategically plan movement to playgrounds with the aim of accessing the closest reasonable exit and minimizing movement throughout the building. Before and after recess, students will be required to wash their hands.
Students will not be screened for temperature. Guidance has been provided to parents/guardians regarding daily COVID-19 screening for students.
We currently have a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum in every FCPS school except the charter schools. SEL lessons have been occurring on average twice a week the entire year during virtual instruction. These lessons will continue for the rest of the year either in a face to face format or virtually. We implemented SEL at the secondary level this year to support all students’ social emotional functioning given the hardships of COVID and the social unrest. SEL lessons were already occurring at the elementary level. School counselors, psychologists, and therapists have been seeing students virtually or in a socially distanced way and supporting their mental health all year and will continue to do so in whatever format school is in. Students are being seen individually to provide a range of services from weekly or daily “check ins” to tutoring and academic monitoring and support to direct counseling services. Small group counseling services are also occurring and will continue to occur focusing on specific topics. A great deal of effort has been spent and continues to be spent on trying to engage students who are not engaged in school in any format.
Please review our Guidance for Face Coverings in School Buildings.
If your child's teacher is able to still teach, they will continue to do so virtually. However, if the teacher needs to take leave and there is not a sub available, there is plan in place to deploy central staff to provide coverage. Principals will make coverage decisions based on what is best for the instructional program.
Based upon a Human Resources survey, 64% of responding substitutes indicated their willingness to return to work via any learning model. Mathematically, FCPS has enough substitutes to fill daily vacancies; however, not all substitutes want to work in all schools, subject areas, or parts of the county. The substitutes database provides them with the option to create a profile of their work preferences. Human Resources has increased recruitment for both daily and long-term substitutes, and we are seeing an increase in the number of applicants.