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Digital Education Center

The Howard County Public School System is planning for a full-time virtual option for students entering grades K-12 who wish to learn virtually for the 2021-2022 school year. Once finalized, the Digital Education Center (DEC) program will give students the opportunity to take classes and earn credits virtually, while receiving support services from both the DEC and their designated home school. DEC students will continue to be “enrolled” in their designated home school and will be able to participate in athletics and activities at that school.

The DEC is intended to function as an additional, separate K-12 center, which will continue to operate even after fully in-person learning resumes at all other HCPSS schools. The Superintendent and Board of Education members have stressed that they consider the return to normalized, five-day, in-person learning this fall to be essential for the majority of HCPSS students. An official decision on the 2021-2022 academic year has not yet been made.

Design and Planning

The DEC is currently in the planning and design phase.

The final DEC scope and options are subject to funding, staffing and final Board of Education approval. Digital Education Center courses will meet the same standards as all HCPSS curricula. The primary difference between traditional, in-person courses and the DEC is the delivery of instruction, which will be through a virtual model.

The DEC will be staffed by HCPSS administrators, teachers and support staff.


The Digital Education Center is scheduled to begin in the 2021-2022 school year.

  • Any student entering grades K-12 during the 2021-2022 school year will have the equal opportunity to enroll in the DEC.
  • Students must commit to the DEC for the full school year to participate.
  • Students who want to return to in-person learning (if it is offered) at a HCPSS school location during the 2021-2022 school year should not sign up for the DEC.

The DEC priority commitment period closed May 5. Families who are interested in committing to the DEC at a later time may have the opportunity to participate if space is available in the program after final budget approval.


Digital Education Center Timeline

March 31: Virtual information sessions for all interested students and families

March 31 – April 14: Parents/guardians complete an interest survey (survey now closed)

April 8 and 12: Virtual information sessions for interested staff

April 20 – 22: School level-specific virtual information sessions for interested students and families

April 21 – May 5: Commit to the DEC for the 2021-2022 academic year

May 27: Board of Education scheduled to approve final budget, which includes funding for the DEC

August 30: First day of school for the 2021-2022 academic year

DEC/Hybrid/Traditional School Comparison Chart


Proposed Digital Education Center (2021-2022)

Current Hybrid Model (2020-2021)

Traditional School Program


Kindergarten – 12

Prekindergarten – 12

Prekindergarten – 12

Instructional Model


Synchronous virtual instruction and digital assignments either during or outside the school day

No in-person learning


In-person learning and synchronous virtual instruction during the school day


In-person instruction during the school day



Both virtual and HCPSS school building

HCPSS school building

Instructional Delivery

HCPSS teachers – virtual teaching

HCPSS teachers – concurrent teaching

HCPSS teachers – in-person teaching

Course Availability

Core Academic Level Courses

Limited electives and related arts

Full HCPSS Course Catalog

Full HCPSS Course Catalog

Supplemental Programs

Access to all HCPSS supplemental programs (Beyond School Hours, Digital Education, Evening Program, Summer Program)

Cost to Families

No cost

Student Support Services

Provided virtually by the DEC and the student’s home school

Provided by the student’s home school

Provided by the student’s home school


Not applicable




Available for purchase or free/reduced-price at the student’s home school

Available at no cost to families at any HCPSS school

Available for purchase or free/reduced-price at the student’s home school

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Digital Education Center Requested Budget

The requested budget is based on 1,250 students.

Actual budget may change based on reallocation of staffing and resources and actual enrollment.



Addition of 75.0 staff


Additional pension, Social Security, Medicare and Health benefits for positions


Wages, Contracted Services and Supplies




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