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HCPSS School Closure Daily Update: March 16, 2020

March 16th, 2020

The following update was sent to the HCPSS community by Superintendent Michael Martirano on March 16, 2020:

We just completed our first day without school due to the Coronavirus COVID–19 pandemic and state-mandated closure. As much as it saddens me that our schools are not currently able to be used as thriving environments of growth, instruction and care, it is critically important that we do our part to limit the spread of COVID–19. I have received many questions by community members and many more are being posted on social media and other online platforms. Please know that while schools are closed, the school system is not completely shut down and many staff members are continuing to work, specifically planning for contingencies and responding to the hundreds of questions and comments we are receiving. We will continue to use our website to provide answers and information, and provide a daily update at the end of each weekday with helpful resources.

Many of the questions we have received are around continued instruction and academic requirements, including the impact of this closure on graduation and standardized testing. On Friday, all students went home with a document that detailed ideas for engaging students in learning activities while schools are closed. These resources are posted online and have been translated into multiple languages. While the activity ideas do not represent the same level of instruction that occurs in our schools, they are intended to help keep our students stay intellectually active while they are at home during this closure.

This is an unprecedented time and we are working to navigate the nuances around continuing instruction in case of an extended closure. We are working with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon and the other 23 Maryland school districts to ensure consistency across all school systems, especially as our instruction is driven not just by local priorities but by state standards and requirements.

I request your patience as we work with our regional and state partners to develop plans for continued instruction should the current closure be extended. We serve nearly 59,000 students and education delivery is not a “one size fits all.” We have to be mindful of resources available to our teachers and students, state and federal requirements, as well as legal requirements related to supporting IEP goals for students receiving special education services.

I want to take this opportunity to remind our community and staff that the purpose of Dr. Salmon closing schools was in an effort to enhance the health and safety of our students, staff and community. Please consider the Governor’s and County Executive’s emergency orders and the rationale for social distancing as these may impact your plans during the closure.

We will continue to provide information that is relevant and may be helpful for our families to review. These updates will be emailed to all families and staff and posted to the HCPSS website daily.

The following daily update provides additional details for families and staff. Please continue to visit the HCPSS website, as all updates, additional information, and answers to frequently asked questions will be posted regularly.

Food distribution

HCPSS will provide free “Grab-N-Go” meals to anyone age 18 and under, as well as any HCPSS student, regardless of age, at nine locations countywide. Meals are available from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., weekdays, Tuesday, March 17 through Friday, March 27. Participants will be given a Grab-N-Go lunch and dinner for that day, as well as a Grab-N-Go breakfast for the following day. Families are encouraged to bring a bag to carry home the three meals. Additional food distribution locations, not sponsored by HCPSS, are available on the MSDE website.

Counseling Services for Students, Families and Staff

The COVID–19 pandemic has made this an especially stressful time for many, especially those already impacted by mental health concerns. Find information about local and online resources for counseling and mental health supports for you and your family on our website.

Public Health Volunteers

The Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is looking for additional medical and non-medical volunteers to support COVID–19 response. The MRC is used to augment existing public health and medical staffing for flu clinics and other activities within the Howard County Health Department, as well as emergencies or disasters regardless of cause. For more information contact Lauren Williams at 410–313–6271 or lawilliams@howardcountymd.gov.

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