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HCPSS School Closure Daily Update: April 2, 2020

April 2nd, 2020

The following update was sent to the HCPSS community by Superintendent Michael Martirano on April 2, 2020:

Today I want to update you on our progress on some of our efforts underway to support families and share some details about our work to answer one of the most commonly asked questions: “How will we celebrate and recognize the work our high school seniors have done?” This closure has created a lot of uncertainty and many schools have had to postpone or cancel senior activities that had been scheduled. Although many other questions await guidance from the Maryland Department of Education, I wanted to share some details about the work of HCPSS staff and students to celebrate seniors.

In collaboration with student leaders, including student Board member Allison Alston, we are working to ensure that our seniors experience a timely and memorable close to their final year. Today, senior class representatives from all high schools and the Homewood Center met virtually to share ideas for ways meaningful senior end-of-year experiences and traditions may continue, including graduation ceremonies, proms, athletics, academics and senior activities. These representatives will gather input from classmates at their respective schools and then provide specific recommendations for our consideration.

Student Device Distribution Update. Distribution of Chromebooks for use in distance learning began today at three sites for high school students. Distribution to high school families will continue over the next week, and will be followed with distribution to middle and elementary families. To date, more than 50,000 families have completed the Student Technology Survey and have requested more than 9,000 devices for student use. We will continue distributing devices to families that need them using our current stock and new devices that have arrived earlier than expected, and we will continue as long as a need exists, adding additional deployment dates if necessary. As a reminder, families who requested a device, either through the survey or directly from a staff member or interpreter, will be emailed directly with details on where and when devices can be picked up. Families who have not yet completed the Student Technology Survey are still encouraged to do so. Please be assured that our process for deploying devices follows social distancing guidelines to assure health and safety for families and staff. More information about student devices is provided online.

If you haven’t already heard from HCPSS regarding device pick-up for your child, please remain patient as we work through the logistics and contact families.

Internet Access. Families who do not have internet access may be eligible to participate in the Comcast Internet Essentials program. Those in rural or other areas without high speed internet service may want to consider activating their smartphone’s hotspot feature. We are also working to acquire Wifi Hotspots to support families lacking internet access. Although manufacturer backlogs have delayed this effort, we have already received some devices and expect to receive others sooner than originally expected. Additionally, we are working with our partners to find alternative solutions. Families may request devices to support remote learning by completing the Student Technology Survey, and we understand that families who have already submitted a survey may need to reassess their needs once distance learning begins. Please be assured that our process for deploying devices follows social distancing guidelines to assure safety for families and staff. More information about student devices is provided online.

Professional Development to Accelerate Continuity of Learning. All this week, our teachers have been deeply engaged in professional development sessions to prepare to lead distance learning. Many factors are involved in planning effective, engaging and equitable online instruction, including scheduling, accessibility, special needs accommodation, grading and reporting, maintaining connections with families, and more. These sessions have been intensive to quickly prepare teachers to pivot to a completely new mode of instruction. I am proud, although not surprised, that our educators have embraced this process with such professionalism and enthusiasm. This journey will continue to be a process of learning and discovery for us all, and I look forward to seeing the inventive approaches that our teachers will use to engage students in whole new ways.

Over the past few weeks I have witnessed countless examples of generosity, support and commitment to others among our community and staff members. You give me great confidence that, regardless of how the next several weeks unfold, our school system and community will continue to be among the finest places anywhere to learn and live.

The following update provides additional information for families and staff.

Check Your Canvas Notifications

Parents/guardians should check your Canvas notification settings to ensure you are receiving announcements, assignments and messages from teachers. Directions on updating your parent profile and notification settings are available online. Parents/guardians unfamiliar with Canvas may find it helpful to review the features in this Canvas Orientation.

Account Self-Service for Students

Students now have the ability to reset their usernames and passwords, independent of teachers and staff. Directions on using self-service can be found online.

Upcoming Public Hearings

Public hearings will be held during the April 16 virtual Board of Education meeting on Policy 1080 Equity, Policy 4010 Donations, Policy 4020 Fund Raising, Policy 4030 School Activity Funds, and Policy 7120 Coaches & Advisors of High School Extracurricular Activities. Due to the COVID–19 crisis, the Board meeting will be held virtually, live on the HCPSS website and on Comcast 95/Verizon 42. Community members wishing to testify at a public hearing should register online. Specific instructions on testifying virtually will be emailed to each registrant prior to the public hearing.

Expanded Meal Distribution

HCPSS is providing free Grab-N-Go meals through April 24 to anyone age 18 and under and/or any HCPSS student, regardless of age, at locations countywide. Meals are available from 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m., weekdays. Participants will be given a snack, lunch and dinner for that day, as well as a breakfast for the following day, and are encouraged to bring a bag to carry home meals each day. Friday distributions at school locations also will include weekend meals. There will be no meal service April 10 or 13; meals for those days will be distributed Thursday, April 9, with instructions for storage and preparation. HCPSS has already distributed over 92,000 meals since March 17.

Third-Quarter Grading

Yesterday’s message included details on how HCPSS is proceeding with grading for the third-quarter. Please find answers to related frequently asked questions on the HCPSS website.