Continuity of Learning Updates May 1, 2020
May 1st, 2020
The following update was sent to the HCPSS community by Superintendent Michael Martirano on May 1, 2020:
Each spring we have a special opportunity to recognize some of our most exceptional educators with the announcement of our new Principal and Teachers of the Year. I want to start by congratulating Nancy Thompson of Talbott Springs Elementary School, who has been selected as 2020 Howard County Principal of the Year and a Washington Post Principal of the Year nominee. Jerome Pickens of Bryant Woods Elementary School is Howard County’s 2020 Maryland Teacher of the Year candidate, and Suzan Young of Homewood Center is our Washington Post Teacher of the Year nominee. It was my great pleasure to notify each of these outstanding educators during virtual meetings with other HCPSS leadership team members and the entire staff and administration of each school.
Today is School Lunch Hero Day, a national observance in honor of the hard-working individuals who prepare and serve healthy meals to our students. Our food service staff have provided more than 470,000 meals to ensure students continue to have access to essential nutrition during this closure. They truly are our heroes!
May 1 is also National School Principal’s Day. I am deeply grateful to each of our 77 excellent school principals, who are on the front lines in supporting students, staff, families and their school communities each and every day.
Graduation Update: One of the most painful aspects of the school closure is that we aren’t able to hold traditional graduation celebrations this May, and it breaks my heart that we can’t plan many of the end-of-year events that we would hold for our seniors in a typical year. Safety must always be our number one priority, and the current state of emergency and the social distancing orders from our Governor and County Executive prevent us from holding any gatherings of more than 10 people. Despite these constraints, we intend to do all we can to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s seniors. Additionally, each school will hold a virtual senior awards ceremony to highlight their seniors many accomplishments. Yard signs honoring seniors will soon be displayed across the county, and schools are considering additional celebrations to honor and give graduates an opportunity to share their future plans.
We plan to hold virtual graduation ceremonies during the window of June 1–9. We decided to move forward in planning virtual celebrations because we cannot foresee how long the current state of emergency will continue, and many of our seniors will soon be moving away for college or career opportunities. However, I want to clarify that holding a virtual graduation celebration does not preclude also holding an in-person celebration in the future. Every school is beginning to plan an in-person celebration to be scheduled at a later date once social distancing mandates are lifted. Schools are also considering additional ways to honor their graduates. We will have more details about graduation plans by early next week.
Update on Spring Athletics: The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) has officially announced the cancellation of all athletic events for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year. This includes the remainder of the 2020 Boys and Girls Basketball State Championships and all spring sports, as well as spring State Championships.
Online Streaming Services: To supplement instruction during distance learning, many teachers are sharing age-appropriate and course-specific video content with students via platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. While some teachers may have been using these services already, many more will likely now be using them regularly to deliver content during our Continuity of Learning plan.
In order for students to be able to access these videos, the Chromebooks that were distributed by HCPSS have been enabled to allow access to these online streaming services. Students using either HCPSS devices or personal devices do not need to create accounts and/or share personal data to access HCPSS content on these services.
Teachers are aware that some parents may have blocked access to certain video platforms on personal devices used by their children. This is especially true for elementary and middle school students. Please contact your teacher if you have any concerns or questions about videos that are being assigned to your child. As always, parents and guardians should continue to monitor their children’s use of internet sites and services to guard against students accessing inappropriate content.
Access to Learning Fund Donation Matching: The Bright Minds Foundation and HCPSS announced a new matching donation opportunity for the emergency Access to Learning Fund, which is raising money for education access supports for HCPSS students during the coronavirus school closure. Donations received will be matched dollar for dollar up to $15,000, thanks to The Kahlert Foundation. To date, 140 donors have contributed more than $27,000 to the fund, which has enabled purchases for more than 3,000 school supply packets including paper and pencils; adaptive switches to activate assistive technology devices for students with special needs; and hotspots and three months of internet service for 50 families. We’re grateful to The Kahlert Foundation for this valuable additional support during this unprecedented time, and thank all of the donors whose contributions are providing essential resources and support for our students to continue their learning from home. I encourage everyone who is able to, to support Bright Minds’ efforts.
Once again, I want to share my appreciation to all of the families who are partnering with our educators to ensure students continue to learn at home while schools are closed. I also thank all of our educators who are balancing responsibilities for instructing their students while simultaneously caring for their own families, and all other staff members who have worked tirelessly to ensure continuity of learning.
SMOB Elections: Elections for Student Member of the Board (SMOB) for the 2020–2021 school year will take place online June 2–3. Voting will take place on Canvas and is open to all students in grades 6–11. Campaigning will occur through the HCASC/SMOB Canvas page and each candidate’s social media accounts. The 2020–21 SMOB candidates are Joshua Drasin of Long Reach High School and Zach Koung of Howard High School. Students needing support with voting on Canvas should contact their school media specialist. Learn more.
Advanced Placement (AP) Exam Updates
The College Board has released some new AP Exam resources:
- AP Exam Day Checklist: Your child should complete this checklist for each AP Exam they take this year, and keep it next to them on test day.
- Explainer Videos: New videos are available to give your child quick, easily accessible information about the test day experience and what they need to do to prepare. Additional videos will be posted to this playlist soon.
- Accommodations details for the exams are also available now.
HCPSS teachers will continue to work with students to share resources and course specific exam information in preparation for testing. Please visit the HCPSS Help website Grades and Testing for more information.
Meals & Nutrition Assistance Programs:
- The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) recently expanded its Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It is possible that families may qualify now for SNAP benefits, based on the economic downturn due to COVID–19. Visit the DHS website to learn more. All children in households already receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can get free meals regardless of income, and students from households that meet federal income guidelines are eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals.
- All Maryland students who qualify for FARMs are eligible for the new P-EBT program, or Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer, which provides benefits on a debit-style EBT card to help families with children purchase healthy food during the school closure. Families can apply for the Free and Reduced-Price Meals (FARMs) program until June 1, 2020. Visit the HCPSS web site to learn more about the opportunities and how to apply.
Howard County Library Resources
- Created While Isolated: Students ages 13 and up and adults are invited to share photographs, art, music, creative writing, and personal stories from this unprecedented time in a collaborative creativity journal.
- TumbleMath is a fun and engaging way to learn math concepts through stories. Students can access this and many other learning resources with their A+ student accounts through hcpss.me by selecting HC Library.
- Attendance: Teachers at all levels will document student attendance during Continuity of Learning using a point system based on student participation in learning activities each week. More information, including specific indicators that will be used for each level is provided online.
- New Continuity of Learning Website and Help Function: The HCPSS Continuity of Learning website has been restructured to provide an even more user-friendly and easily navigated information resource, including pages with schedules and information dedicated to high school seniors and students at each level. The new HCPSS Help site is grouped by subject to allow quicker and easier navigation, and includes a convenient new keyword search function, making it easier to quickly find answers to their most frequently-asked questions.
- School Calendar Revisions: The Board has approved changes to the 2019–2020 school system calendar. HCPSS is now scheduled to be open on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, as the elections on this day will take place almost entirely by mail and schools will not be used as polling places.
- Upcoming Public Hearings: Due to the COVID–19 crisis, Board meetings will be held virtually, live on the HCPSS website and on Comcast 95/Verizon 42. Community members wishing to testify should register online using the following links. Specific instructions on testifying virtually will be emailed to each registrant prior to the public hearing.