HARFORD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Harford County Public Schools has updated its recovery plan as the coronavirus pandemic continues, announcing Thursday they will be doing virtual learning during the first semester in the fall.

The system released their Draft Recovery Plan for opening the 2020-2021 school year, however, since the release of the plan they got “extensive feedback” from community stakeholders with the majority of messages falling to those who support in-person learning and those who support a “fully distance-learning environment due to safety concerns.”

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They said while safe in-person learning is the first preference, the current conditions make it “impossible for large groups of students to be in school at one time,” they said in a statement Thursday morning.

Based on the feedback, they will implement a modified plan that relies “exclusively on virtual learning while providing opportunities for students who need a safe, supervised place during the school day,”

The district will provide Chromebooks for all students K-8, and Windows-based laptops for all students 9-12. All teachers will also receive a Windows-based laptop.

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They will also offer a limited number of spaces in HCPS Learning Support Centers at each of their schools. Students will be supervised by an HCPS employee and will have reliable access to the Internet, the district said.

They’ll also have access to bus transportation and Food and Nutrition Services. Families will receive a survey asking who will be interested in having their children attend the centers in the fall.

“Our ultimate goal is for every student to return to in-person learning as soon as safety allows.  We have been fortunate that Harford County has experienced the lowest infection rate among the large counties in Maryland,” said Sean Bulson Ed. D. Superintendent of Schools for Harford County, “Our county leadership has done an excellent job balancing safety considerations with efforts to incrementally return the community to more ‘normal’ activities.  We believe this plan is consistent with that approach and we will continue seeking ways to incrementally provide additional in-person experiences, particularly for our students with the greatest learning needs.”

WJZ spoke to parents and residents in Harford County about the decision, and reactions were mixed.

“I’m really glad to hear that they’re going to stay virtual for the fall semester,” said Harford County resident Rob Miranda.

“I think all the kids should go back to school. There’s no reason why they should be out of school,” said Harford County resident Dottie Drzewiecki.

Next week Dr. Karen Salmon, the State Superintended of Maryland Schools, is expected to hold a press conference about the upcoming academic year.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachel Menitoff

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