Updated July 17, 2023
Updated July 17, 2023
During the 2020/2021 school year, a year with an unprecedented public health challenge, stakeholders from across Dorchester County Public Schools continued to join forces to monitor the DCPS reopening plan for the safe reopening of schools and resumption of service to students. Using the “Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education” as a guide which includes guidance from Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Maryland Department of Health, the DCPS Reopening Committee continued to focus on the following principles:
Prioritizing the safety and health of students, employees, and families including social-emotional well-being.
Making all decisions through an equity lens using the Maryland Equity and Excellence Guidelines.
Providing high quality instruction and maximizing face-to-face interaction to the greatest extent possible.
Return to full operational status as quickly as possible when safe health conditions exist.
During the 2020-2021 school year, the Superintendent kept the entire DCPS community informed through weekly updates. The weekly updates were informed by the current health metrics in Dorchester County. Any change in Phase status was communicated in a timely manner, keeping staff, families and the community aware.
In July 2021, the superintendent announced that DCPS would open the 2021-2022 school year with ALL students back in school (Phase III). As a result, the executive team began working on plans with the guidance of the health department, School Principals and Instructional Supervisors to ensure that the above mentioned principles continue to be the focus for DCPS. The Reopening Committee was reconvened to address an updated “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.
DCPS continued with the Reopening Committee as we transitioned to our Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan. Membership reflected district personnel (administrators, supervisors and teachers) from all school levels, support services, operations, food service and transportation as well as parents. Community members included government officials, the Dorchester County Health Department, the local management board, the Chamber of Commerce and other agencies.
DCPS continued to operate with All students back in school for the 2022-2023 school year. The DCPS plan is a working guide, not a static document. DCPS is committed to monitoring and evaluating implementation of the reopening plan to determine what is working and how we might need to improve our efforts to support student success. Instructionally, this will focus on measures of student engagement in learning as well as growth towards meeting/exceeding grade level standards for learning. School Improvement teams will meet quarterly to evaluate progress on goals; grade level and content specific teams will be evaluating student progress on multiple measures throughout the instructional interval. District progress monitoring will include quarterly data reviews conducted with school teams to review disaggregated data by academic/instructional levels, as well as by student groups. The district Executive Team which meets weekly, will add a monthly agenda item to review the DCPS plan implementation. The “Reopening” Committee will meet every six months to review and revise the plan as needed.
A survey was sent to all Reopening Committee members on July 17, 2023 explaining that the only changes to the plan were to the data charts, and dates and resources referencing the upcoming school year. The survey asked them to review and provide feedback about the final submission. Feedback received resulted in a revision on page 11 with our partnership with the health department and reporting requirements. Another committee member provided updates to the curriculum documents for the upcoming year. All revisions are in orange font. The final plan will be presented to the board in August of 2023.
“Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education” established requirements for local school systems as they work to develop their plans for the 2021/2022 school year. Sections/Links for each requirement within this document are provided. These requirements include:
Requirement #1: Local school systems must have their recovery plans completed and posted to their website by August 13, 2021.
Requirement #2: The local school system’s equity plan must be reflected throughout the local recovery plan.
Requirement #3: Local school systems must consult with a variety of stakeholders in the development of the Reopening Plan.
Requirement #4: Local school systems must establish a process to determine student instructional readiness early in the school year and a plan is established for student success.
Requirement #5: Local school systems must ensure that Maryland College and Career Ready Standards (MCCRS) and other State standards are taught in content areas.
Requirement #6: Local school systems must follow the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Requirement #7: Local school systems must follow procedures and safety protocols consistent with current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Requirement #8: Local school systems must follow protocols for the safe transportation of students to and from school.
Requirement #9: Local school systems must develop a system for tracking attendance when students are engaged in distance learning.
Requirement #10: Each local school system must continue to implement or enhance their communication plan.
Requirement #11: Local school systems must implement the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) Athletic Program.
Requirement #12: Local school systems must establish a plan for the continuity of learning and services for any students who may need to quarantine due to COVID-19..
While DCPS will begin the 2023-2024 school year in Phase III (in-person learning), it is important to reiterate all phases on the county’s continuum for a responsible return to school. Working with the Dorchester County Health Department, decisions will be made on a school by school basis should an adjustment need to be made regarding a change in the current Phase III status.
All learning occurs through distance learning
School closure due to outbreak
Limited Hybrid Model
Most learning occurs through distance learning
Digital only option as a choice for parents
In-Person Model - Began August 29, 2022
Full in-person learning
Students will follow our protocol for quarantine per our Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan. Parents of students will be notified per our plan. Device and hotspot will be provided along with directions on accessing assignments on Schoology and access to Google Meet. A sheet for troubleshooting will also be provided for students. A sample has been provided under Digital Resource Guides - Especially for students
All students will receive asynchronous instruction via Schoology while quarantined. In the event a whole class or school is quarantined at the elementary school level, synchronous learning via Google Meets will be provided in addition to asynchronous instruction in Schoology. Schedules will be sent home for students to follow that are tailored for at home instruction.
Teachers will contact students (could be through Schoology, email, or a phone call) to make sure students are able to access their asynchronous assignments and make sure they are actively engaging with the curriculum materials provided in Schoology. All schoolwork will be assigned, collected, and graded through Schoology. In the event additional technology support is needed, students and families are encouraged to contact their school’s computer technician (or the district Helpdesk) for assistance. Hotspots will be provided for students who do not have reliable internet access.
All teachers will update their Schoology classes and assignments daily. Technology support will be available at the school and district levels to assist with connectivity issues. Asynchronous attendance will be taken by one of several possible indicators: documentation of logging in, submission of work, email communication with teacher, phone call with teacher, and/or home visit by school staff. All attendance will be recorded and stored on our PowerSchool platform.
All DCPS students have equitable access to educational rigor, resources and support designed to maximize academic success and social/emotional well-being.
Educational rigor and resources: DCPS classroom teachers and instructional support staff receive training every school year which is provided by the DCPS team of Instructional Supervisors, Coordinators and Instructional Coaches. New teachers are oriented to all DCPS curriculum, instructional resources and assessments during the New Teacher Academy. All teachers receive professional development on curriculum that is based on the Maryland Standards and are provided instructional resources through the support from Supervisors, Coordinators and Instructional Coaches to deliver instruction so that ALL students achieve academic success.
Social/emotional well-being: DCPS recognized the need to provide resources to assess, monitor and provide supports to our students social/emotional well-being. Through the use of ESSER and BluePrint funding streams, DCPS has been able to: purchase the social/emotional curriculum “Move This World” , increase the number of Social Workers to support our students and families, and provide additional resources to support students through therapeutic support classrooms. The “Move This World'' curriculum was piloted during summer school at all seven of our elementary schools with 100% participation. School Administrators and School Counselors were trained during a “kickoff “ event in June prior to the start of summer. Teachers were then provided training by each School Counselor. Lessons now take place daily at all elementary grades. Move This World will be implemented at the middle school level with daily lessons as well. All teachers will be trained and then supported by the School Counselors. All students and staff will have the same “language” to use, age-appropriate to support a positive learning environment. Any student that may need additional social-emotional support to be successful in the classroom will be referred to the MTSS team, as described later in this document.
Schools must ensure equal access to ALL students. This means that students need to be able to participate in their learning equitably and have access to all relevant services and supports.
Considerations include, but are not limited to:
Ensuring all students in the school or district will have equal access to the learning and required materials.
Ensure that activities can effectively support the district’s unique learning and teaching needs, including the ability to provide differentiated instruction as well as one-on-one support for students who need it. Regardless of where the learning is happening, supports identified on a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan must be provided. Individual Learning Plans for English Learners must also be followed.
Schools should provide materials for students to continue their learning. Each school would determine the most appropriate way to communicate and provide instruction for each student which could include some/all the following:
Online resources (consider availability of broadband)
Instruction via the school’s learning management system (LMS)
Teachers will use many strategies to facilitate remote learning. Classroom teachers will work with other support staff and administrators to develop and moderate learning environments that engage all learners and support their growth. At all levels, considerations will be made for accessibility for learners and manageability for families. Teachers will be expected to differentiate instruction to meet the diverse needs of learners and all students with an EL plan, a 504 plan, or IEP. Students will continue to receive their accommodations.
DCPS has adopted MTSS as our framework for supporting all of our students, both academically, socially and behaviorally. DCPS began this work in the spring of 2021, working to inventory the available resources and supports available in DCPS. ESSER funds were used to purchase diagnostic and intervention tools to support this tiered approach. The Office of Student Services realigned current “care team” and “student study teams” into MTSS teams that will use the framework as the guiding resource. All administrators, supervisors, school counselors, social workers and instructional coaches were provided professional development on MTSS by an outside consultant. The DCPS MTSS manual was updated and presented to all administrators and supervisors during the 2022-2023 Leadership Retreat. Each school administrative team will present the MTSS process and manual to their respective staff during the “Back to School” week. At the heart of the MTSS system is the data, which then will inform action. Assessment data will be collected on every student as presented later in this document. DCPS will continue to follow the MTSS frameworks for the 2023-2024 school year. The link to our DCPS MTSS website.
School MTSS teams will continue to review the mental health concerns identified by students, families, and their teachers. Administrators, school counselors and social workers will continue to reach out through wellness calls to families to discuss student engagement, social-emotional wellness, and mental health concerns. Through this partnership, school teams will identify needed family support. School personnel will intentionally engage with students to identify students needing extended support through the MTSS Tiers.
In addition, DCPS mental health support has increased this past school year to address the growing needs presented during the covid-19 pandemic. Monthly Mental Health provider meetings were established and held with community mental health providers to strengthen the partnerships created to provide school based mental health support. This year 2 additional partnerships with community mental health providers were added to the schools bringing our total to 8 partnering agencies. One of our new partnerships is with a certified art therapist who will be providing services to elementary school students. Grant resources allowed us to have a school social worker assigned to each DCPS school. The school social workers connected students/families with resources, supported crisis intervention, food assistance, social emotional learning programming and other therapeutic needs.
Students who are placed in private or parochial schools by parents may be eligible for services as outlined in the approved Parentally Placed Private School Students (PPPSS) agreement. These students will receive their services as outlined in their approved service plan. If the private school is not open for in person services or allowing outside community partners in their buildings, services may be provided at the child’s home school or through a virtual platform.
Services to families will be provided in person, with a virtual option. Service providers will discuss in person options with each family and will agree on the setting that is agreeable to the family. If in-home services are not the best option, there will be community settings available for those services to be provided. If the child is in a childcare setting in a home or center, the service providers will follow the protocols for the childcare setting and will only provide services in that day care setting if it is agreed upon with the child care provider. It would be the parent’s choice regarding how the services are provided. A virtual option will continue to be available to all families. The Infants and Toddlers program director will work in collaboration with DCPS to develop a safety protocol for entering homes that will include the use of PPE and the disinfection of materials utilized during a session and will share that plan with families prior to the first home visit. Evaluations, TPMs and IFSP meetings will be in person, with a virtual option if the parent makes that request.
Dorchester County Public Schools will continue to support the individual needs of students identified for accommodations and modifications under Section 504. The case managers will honor the district process and conduct meetings virtually (when necessary). Decisions of the 504 team will be based on medical diagnosis and academic need resulting from the disability. The process will remain fluid, with teams meeting as student needs arise in both the virtual and face-to-face classrooms.
Throughout the COVD-19 pandemic, DCPS and the Dorchester County Health Department have worked collaboratively to support our students and families as well as the community. During the pandemic regular meetings are held between the DCHD Health Officer and the Superintendent. All steps to support in person learning were supported by the DCHD. Daily COVID 19 status updates were relayed between school nurses, the Director of Student Services and the DCHD. The DCHD was the contact to our families regarding testing results and contract tracing. DCPS communicated with our staff, students and families all screening and vaccination opportunities provided by the health department through multiple methods (email; school message; website). Student services (PPW’s; Social Workers) were available for home visits to assist families in supporting their students to be successful for in-person learning and if necessary, offer resources such as home hospital or home instruction.
For the 2023-2024 school, Covid cases will be handled individually, and contact tracing will be done in the event of an outbreak. Outbreaks will be reported to the health department. We will continue to follow the recommendations from MSDE/MDH/CDD for isolation of positive cases: Isolation Recommendations
Dorchester County Public Schools recognizes the urgent need to gather data on our students’ readiness so that informed decisions are made to support unfinished learning, learning loss and acceleration of learning. DCPS will follow our Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) framework to determine which tier our students are in, based on diagnostic data. Using the tiered process, students may receive whole class, small group, intervention group or individual supports during the instructional day. Students may also be offered afterschool tutoring.
It is a top priority for DCPS to complete diagnostic testing early in our students return to school each Fall to assist us in determining progress toward grade level standards for all students. All diagnostic assessments in grades K-12 will be administered face-to-face. Individual student results will inform student readiness for new content. As gaps are identified, students will be matched with appropriate instructional interventions to support content recovery in Reading/English Language Arts and Mathematics.
As diagnostic data is gathered, school teams (grade level; content) will meet to determine what the data says in regard to student academic needs. Administrators, instructional coaches, special educators and classroom teachers will dissect the data by student to determine which MTSS Tier is appropriate.
In grade levels K-5, we will provide an indication of reading development and possible risk for future difficulty learning to read. We will use the Universal Screening/Diagnostic: DIBELS 8. DIBELS 8 Composite scores are benchmarked based on typical performance by age/grade level and time of year. Student performance levels are Core Support (Tier 1), Strategic Support (Tier 2), or Intensive Support (Tier 3).
In grades Prek-5, we will also use LEXIA Core 5. LEXIA Core 5 is an adaptive blended learning program that accelerates the development of literacy skills for students of all abilities, helping them make the critical shift from learning to read to reading to learn. The performance predictors of “On target, Some risk and High risk” will help us assist with placing students into the intervention block that they need.
For grade 6-12, we will use Lexia PowerUp Literacy. LEXIA PowerUp Literacy accelerates literacy gains for students in grades 6-12 who are at risk of not meeting College and Career Ready Standards. Student progress is marked by their performance levels (Foundational/Intermediate/Advanced) in word study, grammar, and comprehension.
In grades K-12, we will use iReady Math which is an online program that provides students of all ages with differentiated instruction and supports them on their individual paths to success. iReady allows students to demonstrate any areas that may need to be supported based on the 4 domains (Number and Operation, Algebra and Algebraic Thinking, Measurement and Data, and Geometry). From this data teachers can design specific interventions using iReady to address these areas of weakness.
Interventions are built into the schedule for reading and mathematics at the elementary, middle, and high school levels during the day.
Assessment Calendar: DCPS Assessment Calendar 22/23 - The 23/24 DCPS Assessment Calendar is being drafted and will follow the test administration windows for all state assessments. MCAP State Testing Windows 23/24
The focus in Dorchester County Public Schools will continue to be providing students solid MTSS Tier 1 instruction. Teachers will begin the school year by utilizing End-of-Year Diagnostic Data until a new baseline can be established (in the above referenced assessment calendars) for the 2023-2024 school year. Once new baseline data is established, teachers and other support staff will identify the MTSS Tier level of support needed to address learning gaps.
During the summer of 2022, DCPS held a districtwide School Improvement Retreat. During the retreat, school teams conducted a “root cause” analysis with the support of the MSDE Office of School Improvement. Over a two day period, teams were led through the process of drilling down through the data to determine the key goals and outcomes that would need to be addressed in their individual plans. Once teams understood the process, the work continued during the summer at their school sites, with the support of district Directors and Supervisors. All School Improvement plans are considered “live” documents and are the result of a review of multiple data sources.
During June of 2023, School Improvement Teams met once again to review data and revise their plan following the same process as the summer of 2022. Linked to this document are the DCPS School Improvement Plans that show baseline and projected student outcomes as well as activities, strategies and timelines for monitoring student progress. Once fall diagnostics are complete, every school improvement team will meet to review new data and revise plans as necessary.
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT PLANS: DCPS School Improvement Plans SY22-23
*2023-2024 plans will be updated by September 15, 2023.
Our local data was calibrated with the state early fall 2021 assessments (MCAP) that were designed to provide information on student understanding on the previous year's content. The aggregate information available within various reports on how groups of students were performing assisted us in determining areas of focus for upcoming instruction, prioritizing the most critical prerequisite skills from unfinished learning to be addressed in each new learning unit. This fall 2021 MCAP data, in conjunction with local screening data, served as the basis for establishing baseline data as well as growth targets disaggregated by student groups, an essential component of accelerating student learning.
Once data was reviewed, MTSS Tier levels were determined. Tier I is classroom based and delivered by the classroom teacher. Schools built intervention/enrichment periods to meet academic and social/emotional needs. Tier II could be delivered in the classroom as small group instruction and/or could be delivered in an intervention group with additional staff supports. After school tutoring has also been offered during the school year with transportation being provided.
The charts on page 14 and 15 reflected the data that has been collected since the start of the reopening plan with numbers updated from the 2022-2023 school year. Data charts for the 2023-2024 school year are linked below; however these may be revised as we finalize our DCPS Strategic Plan, Navigate 2028:
Per the direction of MSDE, and COMAR attendance requirements will not change. DCPS will continue to follow our current attendance policy. DCPS will continue to emphasize the importance of daily student attendance. Attendance is recorded and managed in the Power School platform. Every absence receives a robo call and robo text which is automated. Calls are made by 10:30 a.m. daily.
Attendance is monitored at the school level. Principal, attendance secretary and school counselors play a roll in monitoring attendance data. DCPS process calls for the following steps to be followed for unexcused (unlawful) absences:
Three (3) unexcused absences: meet with student; call parent; follow up letter to parent
Up to five (5) unexcused absences: meet with student; call/meet with parent; refer to MTSS team or Social Worker for next steps which may include: home visit, mental health referral
After eight (8) unexcused absences: referral by PPW to appropriate court; attendance continued to be monitored
For students with multiple excused absences, contact may be made with the parent and if needed, a referral to the MTSS team may be made to discuss the student’s absences and to work on a plan for engagement if necessary.
If DCPS should enter any Phase other than Phase III, Elementary, Middle, and High Schools will address both synchronous and asynchronous attendance documentation. Synchronous and in person attendance will be taken as indicated in DCPS policy (roll, per class/period daily). Asynchronous attendance will be taken by one of several possible indicators: documentation of logging in, submission of work, email communication with teacher, phone call with teacher, and/or home visit by school staff. All attendance will be recorded and stored on our PowerSchool platform.
Students are required to follow the school calendar, which includes 180 school days. Attendance only occurs on in session school days as listed on the DCPS 2022-2023 school year calendar available on the district website.
If Dorchester County returns to Virtual/Distance Learning, the following guidelines are followed:
Teachers should take daily attendance as always and record in PowerSchool.
Teachers can also use the log on record in schoology as an attendance verification.
For students unable to get access online, we can make weekly phone calls. Teachers would need to discuss progress on the assignments and or concepts to determine engagement, and then indicate attendance for the week.
Teachers will have 7 calendar days to go back into PowerSchool and update attendance as using the schoology log in or phone verification will mean there is a multiple day delay.
Attendance auto dialer will continue as is but we will have the notice go out later in the day to accommodate the AM/PM option.
Dorchester County Public Schools anticipates the need for particularly clear, consistent, and timely communications to all stakeholders as the 2021-2022 school year opens and develops with ongoing changes to schedules and logistics. DCPS will begin the school year in Phase III, all students back for in-person learning. However, DCPS recognizes the need to anticipate challenges which may include fluctuations in the status of schools, operational modifications, changing health advisories, and governmental actions. Communications must be responsive and flexible to maintain optimal student learning while ensuring the safety of students and staff.
The goal of Dorchester County Public Schools’ Office of the Director of Operations is to inform, engage and inspire trust from all stakeholders and our community, regardless of circumstances like those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic through the DCPS “Communication and Community Outreach Specialist” (CCOS). Whether the school system operates in a traditional manner, implements hybrid learning or a distance learning plan, the office of the Director of Operations will continue its efforts to keep Dorchester County Public Schools’ employees, students, their families, and the Dorchester County community informed about the work of the school system.
No matter the environment, the CCOS relays vital information to all stakeholders, supports crisis situations, continues to build and enhance the Dorchester County Public Schools brand, directs community relations, responds to the media, and leads many other “business as usual” communication efforts. Considering the changing dynamics of the 2021-22 school year and Dorchester County’s plan to potentially deliver alternative learning modes simultaneously, we anticipate an increased complexity in our communications efforts. These complexities will also be triggered by potential fluctuations in status of schools (open or closed in response to virus outbreaks), changing health advisories, operational or central system modifications, increased needs to generate additional resources, national or local government actions, and multi-layered crisis situations. To succeed, we must remain agile, flexible, creative, and responsive. Dorchester County Public Schools anticipates the need to simultaneously deploy targeted messages through varying communication channels to reach the multiple stakeholder groups it serves. As schools open with modifications to schedules, classes, or logistics, smooth transitions will require clear and consistent communication.
Information specifically targeted to employees will be provided by:
Email: ACE (All County Employee) email serves as the main conduit of internal information. ACE emails regarding the recovery plan will be flagged as such.
Automated notifications: School Messenger provides a platform for communications to staff by both the district and individual schools through both telephone and email.
Microsoft Teams and/or Google Meets
Timely updates to inform all stakeholders will be available through:
Dedicated web page with reopening news and information (www.dcpsk12.org)
Automated notifications via School Messenger
Use of local media: Two weekly newspapers, local radio station, two regional TV stations
Social media (DCPS Facebook)
FAQs: Dynamic list of questions and answers grouped by topic, available via web page
School status line: An information line, accessible by phone
Video: Use of livestream (Town Hall) for Board of Education meetings, major announcements
All aspects of communication will be continually monitored as to effectiveness, with adjustments in strategy as necessary.
Dorchester County Public Schools will operate interscholastic athletics for the 2022-2023 academic school year following the guidelines, and policies set forth by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), and the Bayside Athletic Conference. A full pre-season, regular season, and post-season are scheduled for the Fall, Winter, and Spring athletic seasons in Phase III, In-Person Model.
Pre-Participation Physicals with medical practitioner clearance
COVID-19 Risk and Guidance Information from MSDE/Department of Health
COVID-19 Safety Guidelines from the Dorchester County local health department and adherence to protocols upon a positive case
Facility Assessment, Preparation, and Equipment Needs
Facility Assessment, Daily Equipment, and Facility Disinfection- routine and systematic
Face Coverings optional for student-athletes and staff provided by DCPS when needed
Hygiene Practices reviewed with student-athletes/coaching staff and information present in all medical kits for all sports
Hydration, Heat Acclimatization, and Nutrition information reviewed with student-athletes/coaching staff
Certification training for all athletic coaches in the areas of CPR/Basic First Aid/AED, the Care and Prevention of Sports Injuries (16-hour course) or Refresher Course, and the required National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) coursework: Sudden Cardiac Arrest, Heat Illness Prevention, Sportsmanship, and Concussion in Sports
Dorchester County Public Schools will continue to monitor and to consult with local and state agencies pertaining to any changes or modifications needed to mitigate COVID-19 exposure and to keep student-athletes/coaches/officials safe while participating in interscholastic athletics in all indoor and outdoor venues.