PSS chief seeks changes to school policies to accommodate hybrid, remote learning

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EDUCATION Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada on Tuesday asked the Board of Education to amend some of its policies  so that the Public School System can implement hybrid, remote and onsite learning when its schools reopen on Sept. 8.

For example, Ada said, students who are at high risk — or who have family members who are at high risk — should be allowed to attend school via remote learning. “They should not be penalized for failing to attend school,” he added.

Ada is also proposing to limit the number of school visitors, all of whom must wear face masks and observe social distancing protocols.

Students’ temperature should also be taken before allowing them to board the school bus, he added.

Ada has also asked the board to amend the policy on instructional minutes so that PSS can implement a four-day school schedule.

He said the current policy requires 180 instructional days,  but PSS will not be able to provide 45 instructional days per quarter. “We will end up with 35 days per quarter only.”

PSS is proposing 32,400 minutes or 540 hours of instruction per school year for kindergarten; 64,800 minutes or 1,080 hours for elementary schools; and 54,800 minutes or [913] hours for middle and high schools.

“What we are proposing is a flexible schedule to accommodate shorter days during a disaster, and alternating attendance days for blended learning,” Ada said.

The board members on Wednesday approved the PSS proposal on instructional minutes.

PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu said the board may change its regulation, but it is the Legislature that can amend the statute  that requires 180 instructional days.

As for the other PSS policies, Mocanu said it is within the commissioner’s power to implement  changes, but the board can review them first.

Beginning Aug. 1, PSS will train its teachers to prepare them for remote learning, Ada said, adding that they will also distribute laptops or other devices to students.

PSS will ensure that families have internet connectivity, Ada said.

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