WCTA Covid-19 FAQ & Member Updates

Updated March 26, 2020 @3:30 PM

Thank you to all stakeholders who have supported one another during the Covid-19 closure. It takes a community effort to overcome any crisis, and our region is coming together.

We have prepared this list of FAQs to walk us through the coming days:

What happens next?

Superintendent Salmon’s announcement to keep schools closed through April 24 now gives WCPS the room to move forward with learning plans for employees, students, and families. There will be a variety of growing pains during the roll-out of the plan, and we encourage everyone to be patient. WCTA, WCESP, and WCPS will address any and all issues related to the WCPS Distance Learning Plan. The Associations are committed to meeting the needs of employees and students; every question, suggestion, and concern that has been sent to me and Carlos has been forwarded to WCPS administration.

What is the WCPS Distance Learning Plan?

With input from various statekholders and guidance from MSDE, WCPS has created a document called the WCPS Distance Learning Plan to guide our work in the coming weeks. As the plan is unveiled and dissected, it is incumbent upon every employee to share your thoughts and concerns. Start at the school level by discussing the distance learning plan with your colleagues, department leaders, team leaders, and LT’s. Brainstorm. Take your suggestions or questions to your building administrator(s). The best distance learning plan is the plan that meets the needs of YOUR students and YOUR school community. All subjects are incorporated, and cross-curricular activities could bloom during distance learning. The county plan is a foundation that you and your colleagues will utilize to meet the needs of your students. If, as a school team, you cannot resolve the issues the county plan presents, then contact your supervisor(s), CES administration, and WCTA.

How will we implement the plan?

As distance learning begins, I cannot emphasize enough the need for all parties to be patient, thoughtful, and collaborative. WCPS will provide broad trainings and one-on-one supports via LT’s, Mentors, Admin, and IT. When Zooming, always keep in mind what and who is in the background, your attire, and, as always, your audience. NEA and MSEA have resources on their websites. There are mounds of articles online reminding users of security measures, surveillance, etc.

What about compensation during the extended closure?

Regarding compensation: WCTA and WCESP advocated for all employees to receive compensation and benefits throughout the closure. The recent WCPS S’more outlines the compensation plan for employees. Member advocacy has continued locally, at the state level, and federally, as legislators worked on legislation to support the Nation during this crisis. NEA advocated for a variety of measures to support students, families, workers, student loan debt, and more.

How will this all play out of the next four weeks and beyond?

As educators, our work is never finished, and this telework/distance learning/e-learning/virtual learning hurdle is another one of the many challenges educators will overcome to ensure our students achieve at the highest level.

Dial in for the MSEA townhall. Thursday, March 26, 2020 @ 8Pm for the MSEA TeleTownHall. 410-968-6079. President Cheryl Bost, MSEA Chief legal counsel Kristy Anderson, and Johns Hopkins University Vice Dean, Dr. Sharfstein will be hosting the event.

Monitor the WCTA FB Page and Website for updates.

Feeling Well and Want to Help During the Crisis?

Visit this site for a variety of volunteer opportunities to help Marylanders during the Covid-19 crisis.

Stay positive, stay well, and stay distanced for the good of humanity. We are educators, and we’ll overcome this!

Updated March 25, 2020 @11:55 AM

Today, the state superintendent announced that schools will remain closed for an additional four weeks. While that news is devastating for educators, students, and families, it is necessary to stop the spread of the virus. Tune in to the MSEA town hall Thursday at 8pm. WCTA and Washington County Educational Support Personnel, INC - WCESP will continue to advocate for our students and our members. Now that the state has taken such action regarding public schools, WCPS will be able to move forward with distance learning options. WCTA and WCESP are hopeful that the plan will be collaboratively developed utilizing in-house experts. Stay well. Stay positive. And for the good of all, stay distanced. Monitor the WCTA website and FB page for updates as they develop.

Updated March 23, 2020 @7:40 PM

Earlier today, Governor Hogan ordered a shut-down of all non-essential businesses in the state of Maryland. Actions such as Governor Hogan’s are unprecedented, but our nation (and the world) has not faced a virus as intense and transmissive as Covid-19 since the flu pandemic that hit the world 100 years ago.

How the extended shut-down specifically impacts public schools and WCTA members remains to be seen. WCTA leaders continue to be in contact with WCPS leaders, and we hope to provide more information to our members soon.

The Maryland State Board of Education is holding a meeting on Tuesday. MSEA is working with MSDE and the state board to address issues related to virtual learning, such as access to devices and internet, equity, special education students, and more.

WCTA does have language in the Negotiated Agreement broadly addressing distance learning. The health and safety of all students and employees should be the number one priority for school systems.

MSEA is also working to address questions and concerns related to testing, budgets, student teachers, internships, etc. The ripples of the Covid-19 closure go far and wide.

Save Thursday, March 26, 2020 @ 8Pm for the MSEA TeleTownHall. Watch social media, text, and email for invitations. MSEA president Cheryl Bost, MSEA Chief legal counsel Kristy Anderson, and Johns Hopkins University Vice Dean, Dr. Sharfstein will be hosting the event.

We will continue to update this page as information rolls out from MSEA, MSDE, and WCPS.

Most importantly, stay home and remain socially distant to stop the spread of Covid-19. We all have parts to play during this pandemic. Your minor cough or sniffle could be fatal to our parents, grandparents, and those fighting a variety of health issues.

Monitor the WCTA FB Page and this web page for updates. Tag MSEA and WCTA if you have uplifting images of staff parades, etc.

Stay positive, stay well, and stay distanced for the good of humanity.

FAQ 2: Posted March 23, 2020 @ 8:40 AM

On Friday, March 20, some WCPS principals began reaching out to staff via Zoom meetings to begin conversations about what the next steps for WCPS might look like in the coming weeks. In terms of content of these voluntary meetings, most principals shared similar information from CES. Here is a second FAQ set to summarize the major points:

Will teachers be paid for this initial 2 week closure?

Yes. Since WCPS doesn't know if these ten days will be waived by the state (and therefore whether they do or do not count towards the 180-day student school year), the general stance is a holding pattern until we know what MSDE will determine regarding make-up days. Dr. Pugh has approved a few additional hours over the two-week closure for AP and IB teachers who are continuing new instruction and who supply her with a log of their ongoing work and time.

Are teachers supposed to be doing anything specific during these two weeks?

Aside from AP/IB classes throughout the county, teachers are directed to provide no new instruction during the two-week closure.  Students should only be working on past instruction and learning.  This is a great time for students who are behind to catch up or for students to work through review or enrichment activities that teachers provided on Friday, March 13, via packets or Google classroom assignments. Teachers, parents/guardians, and students can be in contact with one another via WCPS approved platforms.

Teachers can also voluntarily participate in school and department meetings to stay in contact with one another and to begin to plan together what their next steps might be.

What will the new "online school days" look like if we transition to virtual learning next week?

CES is working on plans to transition to online learning in the event we are not able to return to school on March 30.  CES will take the lead on sharing these plans with teachers, parents, guardians, and students when they are available. The challenge is, of course, that each school's needs will vary, depending on the ages and needs of the students and the access to technology available. Google Classroom is an already approved and in use platform for online learning.  Zoom is the approved WCPS tool for 'synchronous interaction' with students.  WCPS will provide a list of all approved instructional delivery tools for online learning in the event that we are not able to return to school on March 30.

Stay well. Stay positive. Stay distanced. The health of every member of our community relies on distance and stemming the spread. An extended shutdown is a reality to protect every American.

FAQ 1: Posted March 19, 2020 @4:30 PM

Information from MSDE and WCPS continues to roll-out, but the information is limited. Without additional information, anxiety surrounding the current 2 week school closure is understandable. Neil and Carlos have been fielding countless calls, texts, and emails from concerned Association members, retirees, and community members. While they, like you, want to know the answers to many questions, the information from WCPS and MSDE leadership is constricted by the emergent nature of the state's response to the changing Covid-19 situation.

When will the school closure end?

The scheduled return to work date is March 30, but that may be unlikely. CDC recommendations to limit gatherings is likely to extend well beyond March 30.

If schools remain closed, will instruction continue online? If so, how?

According to Dr. Michael’s video, WCPS is preparing online lessons and paper packets to continue instruction. Exactly who is creating the units and lessons is unknown to WCTA. We continue to request clarification. At this time, since schools are “closed for business,” WCTA cannot answer how instruction will take place and how packets will be delivered to families without sufficient internet access.

If schools remain closed, will salaries continue to be paid?

Neil received this message from a WCPS administrator: “Teachers will still receive their 26 pays as usual.” If teachers are expected to conduct any online instruction, assessment, etc., compensation is to be expected. At this time, Neil is hopeful that the information he received from CES is accurate.

Am I really expected to cease all communication with students and their families?

NO! Neil encourages educators to maintain lines of communication with their students and their families. Do so utilizing WCPS approved platforms and devices. Avoid use of personal social media accounts and texting from personal cell phones to communicate with students and families. Your students rely on you for support and feedback, and you should feel comfortable assisting and encouraging students via school FB pages, Dojo, Synergy email, etc.

May I produce videos or PowerPoints that I can share via WCPS platforms for students to utilize while we are closed?

Yes, but employees are NOT mandated to create online lessons, videos, etc., at this time. As educators, we don’t want to see our students lose any progress on skills developed. Educators may voluntarily share information helpful to students as long as the activities comply with WCPS policies, curriculum, etc.

While schools are closed for business, can I badge in to get materials from my classroom?

Not without consulting your building principal and receiving explicit permission to enter the building. Closed means closed. The only way schools remain free of the virus is by keeping them empty of ALL personnel.

Will ESSENCE teachers have the opportunity to continue instruction prior to the March 30 date as AP and IB teachers have?

That is unknown at this time. Consult your supervisor and HCC points of contact for guidance regarding how HCC will proceed with instruction.

Will state and national testing resume as scheduled when schools reopen?

That is another question left unanswered by MSDE. With school closings affecting students nationally, testing windows, especially for national exams such as IB and AP remain a hot topic. A definitive answer will not be known until the status of reopening schools is determined.

Will IEP and DIEP meetings take place while schools are closed?

While schools are closed for business, no, IEP and DIEP meetings cannot take place.

Questions for which WCTA does not have answers as of March 19, 2020:

  • Will we make up days?
  • Will schools remain closed for the rest of the year?
  • How will the closure impact the observation and certification process?
  • Will graduations, award ceremonies, spring productions, etc., take place?
  • Will our ESPs be compensated while schools are closed?
  • When will employees be allowed to return to buildings for belongings and resources?
  • How will counselors and administrators complete next year’s schedules during an extended closure?
  • Can APEX replace traditional instruction for students with WCPS devices?
  • What if a family does not have reliable internet?

WCTA and MSEA continue to monitor information locally, at the state level, and nationally. Neil and Carlos are available via email, and Carlos has an MSEA-issued cell phone if you need to reach us.

Neil: nbecker@mseanea.org
Carlos: cmellott@mseanea.org / 443-766-0450

Contact either of them as needed during the closure, but remember that the information they have is limited. Please know that WCTA leaders continue to reach out for information and clarification, but in many cases, WCPS is handcuffed by a lack of direction from MSDE. WCTA is hopeful that the information from both MSDE and WCPS will make things clearer for staff and students rather than cloudier.

Monitor the WCTA FB Page and website for updates.

Most importantly during the closure, heed all CDC guidelines. Limit face-to-face interaction, especially large groups. Check in on your elderly and health-compromised neighbors and friends.

Stay positive. Facetime and call your friends and family. Have virtual get-togethers.

Stay well.

Together, we will endure and successfully overcome the challenges Covid-19 presents.