Working and learning are not the words one would typically associate with Ocean City, Maryland. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is changing everything. Despite the financial impacts at all levels of the economy, this fall presents a unique opportunity for the local tourism industry. Many school districts across the region are committing to virtual learning only for the time being, including eight counties in Maryland. Joining a conference call or attending a class from the beach would typically be unheard of, yet it is becoming a reality. Hotels and businesses are taking advantage of the situation by encouraging families to work and learn from one of the most relaxing spots along the Eastern Seaboard.
For those who do not have a beach house, local hotels are making it easy to set up the perfect workspace with a beautiful, peaceful, and serene backdrop.
The Aloft is offering a “Teach at the Beach” package to provide families with an escape. The deal includes free use of a printer, school supplies, snacks, and Wi-Fi. People can also reserve two to four hours of scheduled meeting space with social distancing. The Aloft team noted that reservations are pouring in at the last minute and that September is shaping up to be a strong month.
The Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel has a special 20% discount for visits of two or more nights. Renee Seiden, director of sales and marketing, feels that now is the perfect time to visit. “Ocean City is a destination that is an easy drive for so many families. This is an outstanding opportunity to do something fun while the weather is still nice. It’s a win for everyone, and it’s not too crowded,” Seiden said. The hotel also has amenities such as Wi-Fi and desks. Families can even hop into the pool once classes conclude! “People can get done what needs to be done, and also enjoy the beach. The fall is gorgeous in Ocean City,” Seiden added.
Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association believes that the fall will be a successful time for many hoteliers but, the resort town is still less busy on weekdays. “We did have a board meeting last Thursday and everyone noted that weekend reservations are strong throughout fall, but weekdays are slower…I’d imagine those second homeowners who have places here would be doing distance learning from their beach houses,” said Jones.
Is Working and Learning from Ocean City Feasible?
The short answer is yes. However, certain conditions must be met to ensure that teachers, students, and others can be successful. Catherine Amos, a social studies teacher at Franklin High School in Baltimore County, understands the challenges of virtual learning firsthand. “I do think it is feasible for students to learn anywhere that they have a quiet space where they can focus and reliable internet access. Without those two things, online learning becomes much more difficult for students and teachers alike. Teachers also need a good space and reliable internet; however, as adults, it is probably easier to disrupt our routine and teach while on vacation, or while visiting family,” Amos explained. She cautions that if students are unable to focus, then it surely impairs their ability to learn.
To ensure that teachers and students maintain their drive and stamina, Ocean City hotels are providing as many private workspaces as possible.
Beyond the Screen
Visiting Ocean City during these times provides more than a break from your home. It is also a break from your computer screen. Experts have warned people for years about the harmful effects to your vision of looking at a screen for numerous hours. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has made continuous use of technology unavoidable.
Tourism leaders are encouraging students to take a step back from their devices and to study at some of the coolest spots Ocean City has to offer. For historical adventures, students can visit the Life-Saving Station Museum, the Harriet Tubman Park and Visitor Center, as well as the notable Sturgis One-Room School Heritage House and the Costen House. Anyone seeking more information will feel right at home inside the Worcester County Library, with endless stacks of books. Those without a library card can apply for a digital card online.
Students of science can enjoy the scenery at Assateague State Park and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. The Delmarva Discovery Center also offers interactive exhibits for children of all ages.
Aside from these core areas of study, Ocean City best suits aspiring artists. The gorgeous beach scenes up and down the resort town make for some of the most compelling sketches, photographs, and paintings. The Ocean City Center for the Arts and the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art showcase some of the most inspiring artists of the region. The Art League of Ocean City provides in-person and online classes for people of all ages and skill levels.
To make your trip more worthwhile, plan your visit in line with upcoming events. Despite the cancellation of Sunfest, the Sunfest Kite Festival is still on for October 1-4 from 3rd to 6th Streets on the Boardwalk. Endless Summer Cruisin’ is also slated for October 8-11 at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
Moving to Ocean City
Many people will take advantage of this special opportunity to visit Ocean City in the fall. However, the pandemic has proven that working from home may be sustainable for more people than originally thought. Local officials, especially Councilman Tony DeLuca, who has continuously pushed for bringing in more full-time residents. The Primary Residence Incentive Program kicked off in August after a vote by the Ocean City Council. Included in the program is a building permit fee waiver of up to $7,500 for “new or substantially approved primary residencies.” There is also a tax rebate of up to $2,500 if you are a new, permanent resident. In just one month, seventeen applications have been filed for the program, and nine approved. DeLuca hopes that the move to remote working and learning coupled with the incentives, will bring more people to Ocean City.