Frequently Asked Questions
For non-HCPSS COVID-19 questions, please see local, state and federal resources.
Continuity of Learning FAQs
What’s next with continuity of learning?
All Maryland public schools are closed through Friday, April 24. HCPSS staff have been working on designing a Continuity of Learning model that will engage students in teacher-supported and teacher-directed distance learning. On Friday, March 13, HCPSS provided resources for families to use at home during this initial two-week closure. If a closure is extended, we are prepared to provide additional tools to build on that first set of resources. These resources will be provided online and distributed in hard copy at all HCPSS food distribution sites for families who lack online access.
Beyond these resources, our full continuity of learning plans must overcome several challenges.
Technology: We are taking inventory of, and collecting all available devices currently in our buildings that could be issued to students, as well as assessing the need for additional devices. Our resource availability will depend on families using devices they already own if possible. As such, we are developing a process for staff and families to evaluate technology available at home and assess needs. At the same time, we are looking for available inventory of devices in the market and within our budget to see how we can overcome this challenge. We have ordered a limited number of hotspot devices, recognizing that not all families and staff have access to the internet at home. Additionally, Comcast is providing greater access and internet speeds to their eligible customers through the Comcast Internet Essentials program.
Equitable Opportunities: Equitable education delivery requires HCPSS to provide necessary supports and resources for all students to be successful. We are mindful of federal and state requirements, as well as legal requirements related to supporting Individualized Education Programs for students receiving special education services and those with Section 504 Plans.
Professional Development: This level of distance learning has not been implemented in Howard County before and will require training and professional development to ensure our staff is prepared to fully support this implementation. Over the next several days, staff will be provided with detailed information on professional learning to ensure they are prepared for an instructional model where instructional delivery and student support would occur remotely.
State Requirements: There are still many unknowns for which we are looking to the state for guidance. These include possible waivers on the requirement that students must be in schools for a minimum of 180 days, the impact of this disruption to instruction on seniors and meeting the qualifications for graduation, and many other variables that impact the decisions that must be made.
I can’t remember my password. What should I do?
Students and staff who forget their password and/or username can reset either by following the directions for Account Self-Service.
Can I use HCPSS facilities during the closure?
While the business of the school system continues remotely, all schools and office buildings are closed, including playgrounds, fields, basketball courts and other outdoor spaces.
I was going to attend an event scheduled during the closure. Is it still happening?
All HCPSS sponsored/co-sponsored events are canceled during the closure period, 6 p.m., Friday, March 13 through Friday, April 24.
How will this closure impact HCPSS athletics?
Updated 3/27/20: In accordance with the actions of the State Superintendent of Schools and the Maryland State Board of Education, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) has decided that all interscholastic athletic team gatherings, activities, practices, and contests are suspended until further notice.
The MPSSAA stated that they will remain vigilant regarding interscholastic athletics and the health and safety of students and school communities. The MPSSAA will also continue to work collaboratively with the Maryland State Department of Education and other relevant state agencies to determine the best route for interscholastic athletics to resume.
What procedures are in place to clean and disinfect schools and facilities?
In accordance with guidelines provided by the Howard County Health Department and Maryland State Department of Education, HCPSS operations staff are cleaning and disinfecting all 77 schools and additional administrative buildings that are operated and maintained by the school system. The cleaning protocols are extensive and detailed, requiring several days in each building to ensure that all surfaces that could be touched by students and staff in every classroom, hallway, bathroom and office are cleaned and disinfected using HCHD-approved materials and procedures. Dedicated teams consisting of staff from the offices of Custodial, Grounds and Maintenance are working very hard to ensure every building and classroom are prepared for the return of students and staff.
What is the process for cleaning buses?
All buses that serve HCPSS students are undergoing a cleaning and disinfectant process that follows instructions provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All non-porous surfaces of the bus that can be touched by students will be cleaned and disinfected, including seats, floors, walls and windows. Products will be used in accordance with guidance provided by the CDC to ensure proper effectiveness.
I/my child was absent Friday, March 13. Is there anything we need to do?
Student absences from Friday, March 13, will be excused. Paper copies of guides for Supporting Students at Home were sent home with all students on March 13, and also are available online.
I/my child has an internship with a local organization that has not closed. Are they still responsible for reporting?
Social distancing is critical to slow the spread of coronavirus COVID–19. As such, all students enrolled in Apprenticeship Work-Based Learning, G/T Intern/Mentor, Transition Activities, Career and Technical Education (CTE) internships at ARL or as part of Career and Research Development (CRD) will not participate in any on-site work associated with these courses until schools reopen.
Will field trips resume once schools reopen?
Howard County Public School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano on March 10, 2020, announced that all out-of-state field trips and athletic events, including those to Washington, D.C., are canceled effective immediately due to concerns related to COVID–19 (Coronavirus). All currently approved in-state field trips are being reassessed individually and decisions will be communicated to families if that field trip will be canceled. This decision is in effect through the end of the 2019–2020 school year.
There are no HCPSS-sponsored international field trips. The Board of Education in July 2018 rescinded Policy 8110 Student International Educational Travel and subsequently added language to Board of Education Policy 8100 Field Trips stating that, “HCPSS does not sponsor student travel outside the United States.”
Are the SAT and ACT exams still on schedule?
What is the impact of the closure on Advanced Placement (AP) testing?
The College Board, which oversees the Advanced Placement (AP) Program, is working to develop online solutions for students impacted by Covid-19. College Board is providing free online resources for students that may be accessed through the AP Portal. AP exams will be modified so that students will take a 45-minute online exam at home that will be accessible using a variety of devices including computers, tablets, or smartphones. The scope of the exam is also being modified to address topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March.
The College Board has also provided the provision that any student already registered for an exam can choose to cancel at no charge. More information about cancellations will be available from HCPSS soon.
For more information about AP testing, please visit the AP website. College Board will be releasing more specific test information on April 3rd.
Are students being provided meals during the closure
HCPSS is providing free breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and weekend meals, weekdays through April 24 from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at multiple locations throughout Howard County. Meals are available to any children 18 and under, and all HCPSS students regardless of age.
A list of additional food distribution locations, not sponsored by HCPSS, is available online.
Additionally, the Community Action Council of Howard County sponsors a Food Bank and supports 14 food pantries for families in need of emergency food assistance. More information about food assistance and a list of the food pantries remaining open during the COVID-19 crisis is available online.
How does this school closure affect graduation requirements?
We have received many inquiries about graduation requirements and the status of graduations. We are reviewing the current status with the Maryland State Department of Education, and will provide additional information related to graduation requirements and related activities as soon as possible.
I was scheduled for an interview during the closure. Is it still happening? What do I need to do?
Most offices are in the process of making arrangements to conduct interviews using alternative methods. If you haven’t heard from the person with whom you had an interview scheduled, please email that person to reschedule.
Will staff continue to be paid? How will staff members receive funds?
Yes, HCPSS employees will be paid as scheduled. The Payroll office implemented procedures to process payroll remotely during this closure. The vast majority of employees elect to be paid by direct deposit. Employees who have not elected direct deposit, have been contacted by the Payroll office. Questions may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which HCPSS employees will be paid during the closure?
Generally, all 10-, 11- and 12-month employees will be paid throughout the duration of the closure. The only employee groups that will not be paid during the closure are temporary employees who have non-guaranteed hours including Substitute Teachers, Lunch and Recess Monitors, Temporary Office Clerks and Home & Hospital Teachers.
Employees who are contracted and paid through an outside agency also may not be paid, depending on the terms of the company contract. People working for an outside contractor should contact the contractor to learn specifics.
Can employees claim unemployment during the closure?
Maryland unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. If an employer must temporarily shut down operations and no work is available, individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits if:
- They meet the monetary criteria and
- They weekly eligibility criteria and
- They are not receiving payment from their employer, such as paid sick/safe leave.
Visit the Maryland Department of Labor website to find information on how to file a claim for Maryland Unemployment Insurance, and view frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and Maryland’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits Administration- Unemployment Insurance.
How are you ensuring the safety of staff cleaning HCPSS facilities?
The directive to clean and disinfect schools was mandated by the State of Maryland, and we’ve ensured that the products being used to clean and disinfect are not hazardous to our staff. HCPSS Operations are utilizing staff members from the offices of Custodial, Grounds and Maintenance to perform the cleaning and disinfecting of the schools, in accordance with guidelines provided by the Howard County Health Department and Maryland State Department of Education.
We are using the following products in a diluted form: Earth Sense Multi-Purpose Cleaner and Neutral-Q Disinfectant Cleaner Deodorant. Both products are purchased from National Chemical Laboratories, Inc. The safety data sheet for the two products can be found online. There are no products in either of these two cleaning mixtures that have enforceable exposure Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) per OSHA. The only ingredient that could be considered hazardous is in the disinfectant: Quaternary Ammonium Compounds. This particular ingredient does not have a PEL and makes up less than 0.1% of the mixture and respirator protection is not required. All HCPSS staff have safety glasses for eye protection and gloves.