Howard County’s Digital Education Center

Sasha Allen

While students are just now starting to trickle back into the building with each phase of reopening, the Howard County Public School System, or HCPSS, has been planning for both virtual and in-person options for the 2021-22 academic year.  According to a memo sent to the school board, the virtual option, proposed as a Digital Education Center (DEC), is a “virtual, alternative learning option” where students take classes “in collaboration with their assigned home school.” According to the HCPSS website, in order to participate in the program, students must commit to the fully virtual model for the entirety of the school year.

However, with the DEC model, there are limited options for electives and extracurriculars. All of the core classes are offered, but the full HCPSS Catalog is only available for in-person students. Despite not having full access to courses, students are still able to play sports or participate in clubs, even if they are not receiving in-person instruction. 

The program itself would need a completely different set of teachers and administrators, hence the budget increase. According to an interview with Christina Delmont Small in the Baltimore Sun, the program needs two administrators, two counselors, 23 paraeducators, and 48 teachers, separate from the in-person staff.

In the $960.2 million budget request for the upcoming academic year, the board of education has put an additional $6.2 million towards the Digital Education Center, most of which is estimated to go towards staffing and benefits for teachers. However, the budget is awaiting approval and funding from the state and federal governments. They are hoping to receive $670.4 million from the county and a projected $289.8 million from the state and federal government. Calvin Ball had a budget presentation on April 19 at 6:30pm.


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