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Thu, 07/11/2019 - 11:42am

Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon this morning announced that she is extending the closure of all public schools in Maryland for an additional four weeks. Consequently, all HCPSS schools and office buildings will remain closed and all school-related activities are canceled through Friday, April 24.

As we have during these past two weeks, HCPSS will remain operational during this time with staff working remotely. Spring Break from Monday, April 6 through Monday April 13 will remain intact for students; however, school staff will engage in professional learning activities during that week. All school and central office staff will be off on Friday, April 10 and Monday, April 13 as previously scheduled.

Over the last few weeks, and especially during the current two week closure, HCPSS staff have been working on designing a Continuity of Learning model that will engage students in teacher-supported and teacher-directed distance learning. Preparing for this model has required a reimagination of all aspects of our existing teaching and learning processes while addressing the challenges inherent to distance learning, which include equitable access to technology, special education needs, scheduling issues for teachers, students and families, and many other factors.

The HCPSS Continuity of Learning implementation includes three phases.

  • Phase 1: On March 13, parents received resources they could use at home during the initial two-week closure period. These were prepared within the span of a few days anticipating that a closure was imminent.
  • Phase 2: Beginning Monday, March 30, teachers will be able to engage virtually with students and families to support continued learning, but will not yet be able to give assignments or assessments. HCPSS teachers will begin professional learning next week to prepare for distance instruction.
  • Phase 3: Beginning Tuesday April 14, more formal, teacher-led distance learning will begin for high school students, followed by middle school instruction beginning on April 20. Plans will be in place to roll out distance learning at the elementary level in the event that the state should decide to further entend school closure beyond April 24. This staggered start for Phase 3 will allow HCPSS to provide additional training for middle and elementary school staff and work with families to ensure adequate technology resources are available. A more detailed update regarding Phase 3 will be shared with the Board of Education during its meeting tomorrow, Thursday, March 26, 2020 and provided to the community via email in my daily update.

Resources for Phase 2: To bridge the gap before Phase 3 distance learning commences, a new set of resources have been posted to the HCPSS Continuity of Learning website. These resources are organized by grade and/or course. Print copies will be made available at HCPSS food distribution sites beginning Thursday, March 26, excluding Forest Ridge and Monarch Mills apartments. These additional materials will not be collected or graded; however, once all teachers return to telework beginning Monday, March 30, your child’s teacher will be available to you to provide resource support.

Student Technology Survey: As we plan for continuity of learning, we request that all HCPSS families complete the HCPSS Student Technology Survey. We are working on securing a limited number of chromebooks and we will do our best to accommodate all families. We are asking parents who have technology and access available at home to indicate so on the first question. Parents who do not have devices or internet access at home should indicate so on the first question and complete the remaining questions.

As I noted, additional information will be provided in my update tomorrow, including an anticipated implementation timeline and greater insight as to what the Continuity of Learning plan will look like for your child, as well as information about the expansion of our meal distribution program beyond this week.

This is an unprecedented situation, with many unanswered questions and issues that still must be addressed. We also acknowledge that the deployment of distance learning for 59,000 students and 8,000 staff within a short timeframe will lead to some hiccups. I ask for your patience and support as we implement these next two phases. Please also know that we continue to seek clarity from the Maryland State Department of Education on decisions that our school system is not at liberty to make regarding Code of Maryland Regulations requirements, which are still being enforced but may potentially be altered or waived. At the end of the day, our focus remains on providing equitable opportunities for all students–not just for a majority–to achieve success, and our work will be driven by the HCPSS definition of equity: “Equity is providing the access, opportunities and supports needed to help students, families and staff reach their full potential by removing barriers to success that individuals face. It does not mean equal or giving everyone the same thing.”

The following update provides additional details for families and staff. Please continue to visit www.hcpss.org for up to date information. You have our continued commitment that our focus is on preparation and keeping you updated on a regular basis informing our communities of any updates or critical information.