Posts by Paul Costello1

Where did National Service Come from?

We often get asked about the idea behind AmeriCorps and the whole concept of service. While we always tell the history of President Clinton’s signature legislation in 1993 and before that, JFK’s idea about the Peace Corps in 1961, what many people don’t realize is an earlier formulation goes way back to America’s first psychologist, William James, and his famous 1906 talk on “The Moral Equivalent of War,” at Stanford University. It’s emphasis on the “male” is a product of its time but the idea spins from James looking for an alternative to the service citizens offer the state at a time of war. Here is the conclusion.


William James, 1892

This essay, based on a speech delivered at Stanford University in 1906, is the origin of the idea of organized national service. The line of descent runs directly from this address to the depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps to the Peace Corps, VISTA, and AmeriCorps. Though some phrases grate upon modern ears, particularly the assumption that only males can perform such service, several racially-biased comments, and the notion that the main form of service should be viewed as a “warfare against nature,” it still sounds a rallying cry for service in the interests of the individual and the nation.

….There is nothing to make one indignant in the mere fact that life is hard, that men should toil and suffer pain. The planetary conditions once for all are such, and we can stand it. But that so many men, by mere accidents of birth and opportunity, should have a life of nothing else but toil and pain and hardness and inferiority imposed upon them, should have no vacation, while others natively no more deserving never get any taste of this campaigning life at all, — this is capable of arousing indignation in reflective minds.

It may end by seeming shameful to all of us that some of us have nothing but campaigning, and others nothing but unmanly ease. If now — and this is my idea — there were, instead of military conscription, a conscription of the whole youthful population to form for a certain number of years a part of the army enlisted against Nature, the injustice would tend to be evened out, and numerous other goods to the commonwealth would remain blind as the luxurious classes now are blind, to man’s relations to the globe he lives on, and to the permanently sour and hard foundations of his higher life. To coal and iron mines, to freight trains, to fishing fleets in December, to dishwashing, clotheswashing, and windowwashing, to road-building and tunnel-making, to foundries and stoke-holes, and to the frames of skyscrapers, would our gilded youths be drafted off, according to their choice, to get the childishness knocked out of them, and to come back into society with healthier sympathies and soberer ideas. They would have paid their blood-tax, done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature; they would tread the earth more proudly, the women would value them more highly, they would be better fathers and teachers of the following generation.

Such a conscription, with the state of public opinion that would have required it, and the many moral fruits it would bear, would preserve in the midst of a pacific civilization the manly virtues which the military party is so afraid of seeing disappear in peace. We should get toughness without callousness, authority with as little criminal cruelty as possible, and painful work done cheerily because the duty is temporary, and threatens not, as now, to degrade the whole remainder of one’s life.

I spoke of the “moral equivalent” of war. So far, war has been the only force that can discipline a whole community, and until and equivalent discipline is organized, I believe that war must have its way. But I have no serious doubt that the ordinary prides and shames of social man, once developed to a certain intensity, are capable of organizing such a moral equivalent as I have sketched, or some other just as effective for preserving manliness of type. It is but a question of time, of skilful propogandism, and of opinion-making men seizing historic opportunities.

The martial type of character can be bred without war. Strenuous honor and disinterestedness abound everywhere. Priests and medical men are in a fashion educated to it, and we should all feel some degree if its imperative if we were conscious of our work as an obligatory service to the state. We should be owned, as soldiers are by the army, and our pride would rise accordingly. We could be poor, then, without humiliation, as army officers now are. The only thing needed henceforward is to inflame the civic temper as part history has inflamed the military temper. H. G. Wells, as usual, sees the centre of the situation. “In many ways,” he says, “military organization is the most peaceful of activities. When the contemporary man steps from the street, of clamorous insincere advertisement, push, adulteration, underselling and intermittent employment into the barrack-yard, he steps on to a higher social plane, into an atmosphere of service and cooperation and of infinitely more honorable emulations. Here at least men are not flung out of employment to degenerate because there is no immediate work for them to do. They are fed a drilled and training for better services. Here at least a man is supposed to win promotion by self-forgetfulness and not by self-seeking. And beside the feeble and irregular endowment of research by commercialism, its little shortsighted snatches at profit by innovation and scientific economy, see how remarkable is the steady and rapid development of method and appliances in naval and military affairs! Nothing is more striking than to compare the progress of civil conveniences which has been left almost entirely to the trader, to the progress in military apparatus during the last few decades. The house-appliances of today, for example, are little better than they were fifty years ago. A house of today is still almost as ill-ventilated, badly heated by wasteful fires, clumsily arranged and furnished as the house of 1858. Houses a couple of hundred years old are still satisfactory places of residence, so little have our standards risen. But the rifle or battleship of fifty years ago was beyond all comparison inferior to those we now possess; in power, in speed, in convenience alike. No one has a use now for such superannuated things.”

Wells adds that he thinks that the conceptions of order and discipline, the tradition of service and devotion, of physical fitness, unstinted exertion, and universal responsibility, which universal military duty is now teaching European nations, will remain a permanent acquisition when the last ammunition has been used in the fireworks that celebrate the final peace. I believe as he does. It would be simply preposterous if the only force that could work ideals of honor and standards of efficiency into English or American natures should be the fear of being killed by the Germans or the Japanese. Great indeed is Fear; but it is not, as our military enthusiasts believe and try to make us believe, the only stimulus known for awakening the higher ranges of men’s spiritual energy….See more on William James here. 

President Elect Supported AmeriCorps before

Joe Biden visits Crenshaw-district soul food restaurant, hits Trump on 'go  back' rhetoric – Daily News

To: President George W. Bush

Senator Biden signed a letter from 43 Senators to the President in 2003

Dear President Bush:

We write to express our strong support for AmeriCorps and recognize the leadership you have shown on this issue over the years. We know you agree that AmeriCorps is an outstanding program which has proven successful in addressing our homeland security needs, leveraging volunteers, and improving the quality of services available to a broad range of Americans.

Unfortunately, as you know, the Corporation for National Service officially announced yesterday unprecedented and drastic funding cuts, from 50 to 95 percent in every state. These cuts mean that under the State Competitive funding stream the Corporation will only fund 2,036 volunteers, compared with 11,236 last year. Many states will see their volunteer allocations under the competitive stream drop by as much as 90 percent and 16 states are shut out completely.

In your 2002 State of the Union address, you called for every American to dedicate 4,000 hours to community service throughout their lives. In your 2004 budget request, you proposed increasing the number of AmeriCorps volunteers from 50,000 to 75,000. Unfortunately, due to serious errors made by the Corporation, fewer than half this number of Americans will be allowed to serve their country through service.

We should support, not oppose, efforts to encourage more Americans to enter public service. We should do everything in our power to reward the American men and women who have chosen to serve the country and their communities in the hope of meeting the nation’s critical education, safety, health, and homeland security needs.

We urge you to request additional funding in the supplemental appropriations bill to ensure that AmeriCorps remains a strong and vital program today and in the future.

Volunteering can give kids purpose in uncertain times — and there are still ways to do it

By Connie ChangNovember 16, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. From Washington Post

How to Find Volunteer Jobs on LinkedIn | PCMag

When the pandemic hit in March, Devon Anderson and her three children — ages 7, 9 and 12 — abruptly stopped volunteering at their local Humane Society in Ohio. “We miss our little four-legged friends,” Anderson says. “We talk about it all the time and look at the Facebook page to see if any of the animals we worked with have been adopted.” And although restrictions have loosened in recent months, because Anderson is at high risk for coronavirus complications, she and her family haven’t been back.

They’re not alone. According to Laura Plato, chief solutions officer at VolunteerMatch, a platform that connects volunteers with nonprofit organizations, traditional in-person volunteering has dropped off precipitously since the pandemic began, while need has only grown. “Our nation’s nonprofits are having to really get creative and reinvent what volunteering looks like,” she says.

A wide body of research on teens and adults links volunteering to a host of benefits, including reduced rates of depression and anxiety and meaningful improvements in life expectancy. “But for children,” says Akua Boateng, a psychotherapist based in Philadelphia who works with families, “volunteering can also be a positive component of their developmental process — helping them understand their place in the social fabric — and is associated with a higher sense of self-esteem.” In the course of volunteering, children “develop the skills to think of the world outside of themselves,” she says, which lays the foundation for empathy, compassion and engagement. Parents, too, experience mental and physical health benefits from volunteering with their children, and they report closer family connection.

When so much is out of our control, the act of volunteering puts some control back in our hands. And with the normal rhythms of life still very much disrupted, it’s a good way to occupy and engage children who might otherwise feel stuck.

5 ways to help teens feel seen and heard in an uncertain time

Peter Levine, a professor at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, cautions that how parents frame volunteering is important. “It’s crucial to talk about social inequity in the right way with children,” he says, “to avoid communicating a sense of superiority that leads to, ‘We have to help these people because there’s something wrong with them.’ ” Even for a 4-year-old, “you can make it clear that the people you give food to, that that could be us, and there’s nothing wrong with them. They’ve just had bad luck.”

For families who want to volunteer in this new landscape, what options are there? Quite a few, says Karen Daniel, vice president of programs at Youth Service America. “We have a project ideas database on our website, where people can search by the issue area that they care about and by their spark, which is what they love to do. We really believe in helping kids start with something they love so that the project is fun for them, too.”

Plato from VolunteerMatch says to “think about activities that you’ve traditionally done and organizations that you’ve traditionally done them with. A lot of these places — and new, smaller organizations, too — are embracing practices to make their programs more virtual, more safely distanced.”

At home

Volunteering that addresses the immediate needs created by the pandemic and employs children’s natural creativity can often be done from home. For example, children can sew masks to donate to local hospitals and essential workers. Younger children, or those uncomfortable working with needles, can construct no-sew alternatives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tutorials and guidelines are a good place to start, but endless variations can also be found online.

A thoughtful note can go a long way toward cheering someone up. There are programs to help kids reach out to military personnel and their families, or write letters and cards to older people who are separated from their loved ones. But you don’t need formal avenues to contribute; sending letters to family, friends or members of your immediate community helps strengthen ties in your own backyard.

Hunger is a long-standing problem that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Although churches and shelters have largely suspended big meal gatherings for now, grab-and-go meals and meal deliveries have filled some of the gap. Children can help prepare meals from home, decorate packages and tag along when parents deliver the food safely, adhering to social distancing regulations.

Virtual and asynchronous

Virtual volunteering, where activities are done using a computer or phone, and asynchronous volunteering, where they’re completed independently without following a rigid schedule, have transformed the traditional fundraiser.

“For Global Youth Service Day this year, instead of doing a physical fun run — where the kids would get pledges for the miles they run — they did it virtually,” Daniel says. In virtual run-walk events, participants run alone and then submit their results, often through social media platforms. But the shared experience of reaching mileage and fundraising goals together still fosters community building. In more team-driven events, family members and friends can buddy up to hit target distances collectively.

“Consider hosting a virtual toy or food drive and have your neighbors be a part of it,” Plato suggests. To incorporate a social component to the drive, you can host a virtual movie-watching party and ask for donations in return for a “seat.” Another popular mainstay of holiday volunteering is Adopt-a-Family, which can also be done virtually with friends and family.

The great outdoors

Right now, the safest place to congregate is outdoors, provided social distancing rules and mask-wearing are observed. Therefore, outings to the park or beach to pick up trash are great ways for kids to get the wiggles out with friends while also learning about the importance of environmental stewardship. Even a walk around the neighborhood with a garbage bag emphasizes how important it is that everyone does their part to keep our world safe and clean.

According to Katie Stagliano of Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit that helps children start gardens across the United States, community gardening can continue in the colder months with winter crops such as cabbage, carrots, kale, turnips and collard greens, which can then be distributed to families struggling with food insecurity. And other activities centered around garden hygiene and upkeep are good to tackle when it’s colder out: tending to your compost pile, pruning back perennials and building new garden beds for spring.

With about 80 percent of the approximately 1.5 million nonprofits in the country using volunteers, according to Plato, “the help is needed and wanted,” she says. “And the best way to get out there is to connect with folks and find out what they need, consider what you’re passionate about and match those two things up as a family.”

Lydia Elle, a writer in Los Angeles, and her 10-year-old daughter, London, have embraced this philosophy. Inspired by a love of reading and the realization that other kids may not have the same access to books, London started partnering up with organizations in 2019 to donate books to children in need. “During the summer, because we couldn’t get out and distribute books in person like we normally would have, we made a huge donation of books to our local food bank instead,” Elle says. The food bank matched books to packages they were assembling for the families they serve, and “it was just a nice way to ensure kids kept on reading during the summer months.”

Connie Chang writes about the second-generation immigrant experience, including the challenges of raising children at the intersection of multiple cultures and traditions. She lives in Silicon Valley, is a mother of three and knits in her spare time. Find Connie on Twitter @changcon.

Read More.

Countering the Narrative- Jason DeHart

What’s your story? 

figure pushing dial from negative to positive

As a middle school English teacher, sometimes I wished I could have simply asked my students that question. I know well how the narratives we tell ourselves about ourselves shape what we believe we can and cannot do.

Instead, it’s been my job as a teacher to pick up on the little clues they have dropped day in and day out. As the best storytellers do, they have shown me their stories, giving glimpses of their backgrounds and beliefs. And those beliefs—their narratives—have a profound influence on whether or not they think they can succeed, whether or not they perceive education as a springboard or cinder block. The better I understand the narratives at work in their lives, the better position I’m in to help students—especially disengaged students—develop counternarratives to stories that may be holding them back. Read More

Alumni Stories

Watch the video featuring alumni testimonies

Watch the Video featuring Alumni Testimonies from Project CHANGE’s 20 year history.

The Pandemic-6 Months on…

Solid Granadillo Wood Hourglass With Smooth Spindles - JustHourglasses
COVID and the sands of time

The question that arose for us in March 2020 when the schools first shut down, and our AmeriCorps service year was interrupted was- How Long?Most people were thinking- perhaps wishing- this is only temporary, a precautionary measure, till we get this infection under control. But here we are 6 months to the day March 16-September 16th. We are still not even sure where we are, or even if we are in the middle.

Where do you feel you are right now in the unfolding story?

Some experts are saying this is still the first wave. With Fall starting next week, with its usual flu season, we are a long ways away from the end. At least if it is a middle of sorts, we have to start thinking of COVID19 as a year long event. We have not lost a few months. We have lost a whole year, at least, if not more. Ignoring or minimizing what we have lost is not healthy.

In the study of narrative design, research shows that the two most valuable pieces of real estate in the territory of story are the Beginning and The End. The Ending is meant to create a sense of Completion ( not closure). The Beginning is meant to invite Creative energy needed for a fresh start. This is critical to creating a coherent memory.

In this unfolding story design, orchestrated by the virus, those endings have not been cleanly completed, and these beginnings are not being freshly started. That has enormous implications for memory and how we make sense of the event. It is one of the reasons why most of us are not coping- its a broken story. COVID does not disclose enough of itself to reveal an ending and with an ending, some promise of meaning. We are stuck in the middle. Some call it trauma, the results of such narrative dysfunction.

Lost in the Middle Of Nowhere - Kane Brown, Becky G [Lyrics / sub español]  (Spanish Remix) - YouTube

In narrative design practice, the middle has 3 main energies- of complication, clarification, and the call to re-commitment. We are certainly experiencing that but it is not because of us, its because of where we are- in the Middle.


The key clarifying question for this Middle Passage is this:

What do we know from here (M)….that we did not know from there (B)….that knowing the difference ( between B and M)…. will increase our chances of reaching our desired ends. (E)

Like a voyage stuck in the doldrums of mid passage, what cargo can we ditch because it weighs us down? What adjustments to the sails are called for, and how do we repair and lighten the ship to get us moving again?

What lessons have your learned from these last 6 months?

I threw this question at Jack, one of my staff this morning, and we came up with a few insights of what we had learned en route.

-`the pandemic is lasting much longer than we thought. We prepared for a sprint or a middle distance effort but it has become a marathon. We may have spent energy for the short run and not conserved enough to endure the long run. How do we build that energy now? How do we rig for a longer sail?

-the shut down has so challenged our life routine that we are forced to reconsider what matters, especially because of what we are missing. We are all on a forced sabbatical. Are we enduring it or using it?

time seems to have lost its moorings to any particular moment, and days merge into each other so that its easy to become bored or lose our zest for life. Since we will not get these months back, what are we doing to make time matter?

Repetition Examples in Literature and Writing

-we are all challenged to learn a new technological literacy that we did not have to bother with before- and this isolation has increased connection on another level. We are all experiencing that movie title “Far Away, So Close”.

-we, and especially parents, now understand the gift of a teacher and the role our schools play not just to educate but to socialize our kids.

-we realize how person to person “in the flesh” contact matters to our mental and emotional health. No matter how good the virtual is, it is no substitute. How can humans live without hugs and kisses and pats on the back?

we are forced to slow down and learn patience. Some people have more patience than others, but let’s face it, none of us are really coping that well.

-yes, we are in a shared story of COVID19 but as my friend Lex likes to say, we are not in the same boat, just the same storm. Some are navigating through in their cruisers and some are drowning and some are falling overboard.

What about the second half of the question- how can we use our learning to increase our chances of a happy ending? I can only share some of what I am doing.

How are you applying what you have learned going forward?


Original oil painting of lonely little sailing ship battling in a Stock  Photo - Alamy

First, I am not trying to hurry up. Slow is OK. In fact, SLOW is better.

Second, I am not rushing to get back to normal because this abnormal in-between time is potentially a doorway into doing life differently. I am welcoming the liminal space.

Third, what the COVID finally means is dependent less on what I do with it now and more on what I do with it afterwards. So I invite the future more into my imagination. If COVID is the unavoidable hibernation, what comes next? Let’s all play Rip Van Winkle and wake up to a startlingly different world. Turn endurance into emergence. That is what emerge-ncies are for.

Fourth, when I know what I am battling with, and see that look on others’ faces on ZOOM, I know more than ever, I need to be kind. It is not the solution to every problem but right now, anything else is likely to only make things worse.

Spanish flu 1918: How cities fared in containing killer virus

Fifth, when it is over, we will both miss it and we won’t remember much about it. So, I want to remember it-and mark the passage of time so it does not go unobserved. Hence declaring this Middle Moment today is my way to honor this place in the stream. I am using Narrative Design to consciously live today in the way I want to remember it tomorrow.

Reading the history of the 1919/20 Spanish Flu, one is stunned how the tragedy of the war years ending in 1918 seemed to have crowded out any communal memory of the death toll of 1919-20 which was a much larger tragedy. Spanish influenza was as unpredictable in its start as its end and that is the enemy of memory. But that forgetting did not serve us well in 2019/20.

One final learning from applying the maps and principles of narrative design to the COVID19 experience is that it proves the point- Where we are is who we are. We did not chose to be here. And though so many are blaming so many others, that to me shows a lack of Awareness meaning A-Where-Ness.

How we are feeling right now has more to do with WHERE we are and not WHO we are. I mean, how does anyone show up and survive during a pandemic? How does anyone predict or get a pandemic right? President Lincoln took 2-3 years to get the Civil War about right, and even then.

We are in the Middle. It’s messy and it’s complicated and it feels like nothing is going right. But that is how a story works. Rest assured underneath it all, the future is slowly emerging. If we are only looking backwards, we will miss it. A story works best when its plot pushes our attention forward to the cusp of “What comes next?” If time is not offering much chance for that suspense right now, then we need to invent a future that will get us back in the game. That might be the only way we can keep ourselves sane.

Stay In The Game | Empowering Women!

Farewell to my COVID Corps of AmeriCorps Project CHANGE 2019-2020

Hi Team,

It’s Friday. I have just spent the morning on E-Grants filling in final forms for each of you to officially end your year of service and be exited from the system. You should receive some notice of that in your MyAmericorps. As I ticked the boxes about hours, dates, and compelling personal circumstances etc, I thought to myself- someone reading the document in a few years time will have no idea, none, nada, what it all meant, and what we together have achieved in this year of the plague.

How many other boxes would we need to tick to do this crazy year justice? Tick the box if the member-

-hung in there when everything they signed on for seemed to disappear
-improvised to identify and meet the need that was around them-stayed in the story of service no matter what
-supported each other through the down times
-celebrated the good times and had a laugh- and a great graduation
-compelling personal circumstances-yes, how they compelled members to care more
-got creative in finding new ways of serving the age-old needs of hunger and loneliness
-were stretched and came to know more about their own strengths and limits
-challenged to do education in a different way outside of school

The forms on E-Grants don’t ask these questions- but that’s the problem with data. It’s all bones and no flesh. The AmeriCorps report will say that “19 members signed on for Project CHANGE in August 2019 and 19 members served through to the end of the 2020 school year and beyond.” End of story? No way!

When the rest of the country was totally upended, Project CHANGE stood up. And that is a tribute to each of you, my team, my COVID Corps.

I want to thank each of you personally for your efforts-Funa, Genean, Lex, David, AnneMarie, Jose, Jessica, Ben, Gregory, Alanna, Jason, Milton,Claire, Pearl, Angela, Jennifer, Blen, Ben M, Maria, for your dedication- above and beyond the call of duty.

You will never know the impact of your patience with that Senior who you called each week but you made her life a little less lonely. Or that girl who ran away because home was too toxic but you stayed on the case even when everyone told you to butt out. Or the support you gave to that overwhelmed teacher by organizing his grading system and exams so he could stay connected to his students. As you move on to your next year, know you did leave behind a story, a memory, a moment. Cherish that. Be proud of that.

Some of you are signing on for another year. Some of you are looking for jobs. Some of you are going back to school. Some of you are still making up your mind. But in the summer of 2020, you were serving with AmeriCorps Project CHANGE and when the world went crazy, you stayed sane. When the world shut down, you did your best to stay open for business. When people, friends, family of yours, got sick, isolated or even died, you did what the AmeriCorps pledge says- you got things done. You brought people together. When faced with adversity, you persevered.

There will be future AmeriCorps years of Project CHANGE. And we know that we will eventually get through this. But as RFK said, “it is the rare privilege few generations get, to rise to meet the challenges of their time.” Team 2019-20 have. We have. Don’t you ever forget that!

Proud of all of you-Thankful for all of you.

No more Sign In Sheets-(Ha Ha.)
Over and Out.


America needs a post-COVID national service program

Called to Serve Pin Tie Tac

National Catholic Reporter July 13 2020 Yonce Shelton

Christ’s followers are to be known by their fruits. As I wake from my slumber, I am compelled by the thought of all the fruit at the food pantry that must be sorted and distributed today. This service is fruit borne by belief in Christ. Before I head off, I affix a small pin with an ‘A’ on it — a reminder of my responsibility to the nation which supports my position through government programs for national service. I remember that the inseparability of theory and practice is not just a biblical idea; it is also an American idea.

Benny Mattis wrote this last year while serving as a year-long AmeriCorps volunteer with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) in Kentucky. AmeriCorps volunteers meet critical human and community needs across the country and receive benefits to, among other things, help with professional opportunity and growth.

CAP is one of hundreds of programs across the country that offer full-time, faith-based service to help transform communities and lives. Based on the unique mission, calling and context of these programs, each one supports the spiritual, vocational and career development of volunteers living out faith in service to the world. Many volunteers in these programs are recent college graduates.

For decades, these programs have acted on the principles in Christus Vivit, Pope Francis’ 2019 apostolic exhortation on young people, which recognizes that “social commitment is a specific feature of today’s young people.”

Especially now, young adults need pastoral guidance, good mentoring and chances to adjust their plans. They need opportunities to contribute to the common good. Looking back today, Mattis said his service experience “allowed me to build relationships across cultural divides, prayerfully discern God’s will for my life during a time of uncertainty, and pursue further education with an AmeriCorps Education Award.”

Government efforts can provide opportunities for young Christians to give and receive — and are not without precedent. Read More

Considerations for MCPS Fall 2020 Recovery MCPS Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover

MCPS Fall 2020 Recovery Archives | Montgomery Community Media

The MCPS Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover Guide provides an overview of a few of the recovery models we are considering at this time, in light of the information and guidance MCPS has received from the Maryland State Department of Education and from county health partners. This is just a draft guide and MCPS will continue to amend, adjust and improve upon these recommendations as it receives feedback from you—our parents, staff and students……

State Requirements for Opening Schools

School districts must:

Complete and post recovery plans on the district website by August 14. The State Department of Education will review all plans.
• Address equity in all components of the plan.
• Establish a recovery plan stakeholder group that is representative of its schools and community.
• Assess all students to identify and address gaps in learning.
• Follow MSDE standards and provide instruction across all key content areas.
• Follow IDEA, 504 and ADA plus all other special education protocols and laws.
• Follow MSDE, state and federal health guidelines and procedures for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
• Follow MSDE, state and federal health safety protocols around food service, daily cleanings and other school operations.
• Follow protocols for the safe transportation of students to and from schools.
• Develop a system for tracking attendance when students are engaged in remote learning.
• Develop a communications plan to reach its stakeholders.
• Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education
• 2020 Summer Programs Surveys for Staff and Families • Fall 2020 Recovery Surveys for Staff and Families
• Benchmarking with large school districts across the state and country 5 S

Access the report here

Montgomery County students could start classes remotely, return to campus gradually in the fall

By Donna St. GeorgeJuly 11, 2020 at 2:49 p.m. EDT

Here's what it could look like if MCPS reopen in the fall

Maryland’s largest school system would open the school year Aug. 31 with remote learning and gradually bring students back on campus for up to two days a week in the fall, under a 21-page proposal released Saturday.

The goal for suburban Montgomery County would be to get students inside schools by late November. But that would be guided by public health conditions, and if parents don’t want in-person learning they could opt for full-time distance education.

Debate on the hybrid approach amid the novel coronavirus pandemic sparked strong reactions. Some argued it was not yet safe to return to schools as cases continue to rise, while others said they hoped to see children back in their classrooms sooner.

“We’re faced with a tension between parents who want us to flip the switch and go back to pre-March 13 — to five days a week in a brick-and-mortar school — and teachers with very valid concerns about health and safety,” said Patricia O’Neill, a school board member, who said hundreds of emails had come in on the topic.

The approach, slated for discussion Tuesday by the school board, was not completely unexpected. Montgomery officials had said in June that they were exploring a hybrid setup, and others school systems locally and nationally have moved in that direction.

Montgomery schools push toward part-time, in-person learning for fall

President Trump recently stepped up his call to fully reopen the nation’s schools, threatening to cut federal funding to those that don’t. But health officials and educators have cited the importance of local infection trends and a more cautious approach. More than 131,000 people nationwide have died of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

In Montgomery, Superintendent Jack R. Smith called his proposal a “draft guide” that would be amended as parents, students and staff members continue to weigh in. State officials, who have the ultimate say in reopening schools, will review Montgomery’s plan, which must posted to the school system’s website by Aug. 14.

Under the plan, elementary students would be divided into A and B groups, attending classes in person on a Monday-Tuesday or a Thursday-Friday schedule, with remote learning on other days. Schools would be cleaned Wednesdays, as students continue with distance instruction and teachers focus on professional development.

Middle school students would similarly be separated into A and B groups, with two days a week on campus, while high school students would split into three groups, with less time on campus — four days every three weeks.

First to return to campus buildings would be students in transition grades — prekindergarten, kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade — and those in specific special-education programs.

School days would be longer and more robust than last spring, when educators scrambled to make distance learning work and many people complained about a lack of live instruction.

In Montgomery County, schools and parents clash over how much teachers and students are connecting

Come fall, school days are expected to include more live, teacher-led instruction, for fuller school days. In elementary school, breaks will include lunch and recess, with school days that offer art, music, physical education and other special classes.

Some pointed quickly to issues that seemed unaddressed, including how teachers would juggle teaching remotely to one half of the class while teaching in-person to the other.

Others wanted to know more about protocols for testing and isolating students who get sick. And sanitizing Chromebook laptops. And keeping masks on kindergartners.

And ensuring air circulation and filtration are adequate inside buildings.

“This is really the beginning of the conversation,” said Cynthia Simonson, president of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations. “We need so much more for it to really function and make sense, especially at the high school level. This is a framework.”

Teachers spoke out almost immediately, with some wondering how returning to face-to-face instruction could possibly be safe. Some noted that health officials in Missouri recently reported more than 80 coronavirus infections from a Christian summer camp.AD

“I’m really nervous about going into a school building while cases of covid-19 are still rising and there’s still so much we don’t know about it,” said Josh Halpren, a middle school history teacher who noted several of his colleagues are pregnant and others have health conditions or vulnerable family members.

“I think it’s just too risky,” he said. “This is something that’s killing a lot of people. To ask teachers to put themselves on the line like that is something that’s not okay with me.”

Halpern and other teachers suggested the school system go all-in with distance learning, so students get what they need without danger to them or others. “Distance learning can work, and it’s a whole lot safer for everybody,” he said.

Lloyd said that among teachers he has heard from, there is a real desire to get back to face-to-face instruction — “nothing substitutes for that,” he said — but health and safety are paramount.

On-campus instruction would mean smaller class sizes and fewer students in school buildings on any given day. Masks would be required and hand sanitizer stations installed, with social distancing in classrooms and in hallways.

But even with fewer students on campus, bus transportation would be especially challenging — with 12 students on a buses that previously held 50.

Families would need to opt in to bus transportation, and school officials said they were prioritizing buses for students in elementary and middle schools.

Lyric Winik, president of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association, pointed out that one size does not fit all in a school system so large — with 166,000 students and 208 schools.AD

“How much flexibility are the individual schools going to have to modify this so it works for them?” she asked.

Others said the proposal seemed like an effort to make the best of trying times.

Vincent Russo, a father of three in Rockville, said it looked like the school system was trying to balance things and noted the situation required patience from parents. “I would love them to spend more time in school,” he said. “But this is the reality.”

Roberta Burkes, a mom of three in Potomac, said she had heard some parents say they won’t send their children into school buildings but she believes it’s fine with proper precautions and cleaning. Burkes did a two-month stint as a nurse in New York, working on the front lines.

“We’re going to adapt to whatever needs to happen for the school year,” she said. “We’ll go with it either way and make it work.”AD