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Board of Education Meeting, Superintendent’s Fall Opening Report, July 9, 2020

July 17th, 2020

The following remarks were delivered by HCPSS Superintendent Michael Martirano at the Board of Education virtual meeting, July 9, 2020:

Good afternoon. In just a moment, staff are going to present the progress and planning status for the fall semester. This work has required countless hours by many, many staff members – often without essential information still required from state and federal sources. I want to thank all of the students, staff and families who completed the surveys and provided input through the dedicated email address. We had over 39,000 surveys completed and have received hundreds of emails. Additionally, I am extremely appreciative of the community members and staff who served on the advisories and Recovery Stakeholder Group.

The updates and recommendations that you are going to hear this afternoon represent our best efforts to return to an instructional delivery model that is safe, robust and effective based on the information that we know currently. We acknowledge that state and federal guidance and expectations are changing daily and will continue to do so following today’s presentation and discussion, as the pandemic continues to evolve. We are also still awaiting guidance from the Maryland State Department of Education on many issues that impact our decisions. My discussions with state and local leaders continue to occur daily and many of our staff members are serving on state committees and participating in discussions and workgroups to learn more and guide the decisions that impact schools, students, staff and families.

The greatest difference that you will recognize today from the spring Continuity of Learning solution is that teacher-led instruction will occur daily for most students and will align with all curricular objectives and expectations. Though all instruction may not occur in-person, I assure you that it will much more closely resemble the traditional levels of rigorous instruction that we have provided so well for so many years.

Today’s presentation is going to walk the Board and community through the stakeholder input and information we know on a multitude of topics that have helped drive decision making. At the conclusion of the presentation, the Board will be asked to provide guidance and approval on five major decision-points, but at this point we are not asking the Board to approve a final plan or even to endorse each element of the plan. We will incorporate the Board’s guidance based on these five points and will soon bring back to the Board a more formalized plan for your approval. Those five decision points will be:

  1. The formation of a K-12 Digital Education Center option for students from kindergarten through twelfth grade;
  2. A phased-in hybrid model for elementary students with an A day-B day schedule;
  3. A secondary model that incorporates a 4×4 semester with in-person support options beginning in the second quarter;
  4. A calendar modification that includes delaying the start of the school year; and
  5. The purchase of additional Chromebooks.

I encourage the Board to pay close attention to the content being presented and ask questions for clarification at the conclusion of the presentation. At the same time, we are looking for Board guidance so I encourage you to offer your input and for the Board to come to consensus on the important decisions needed to move forward. We have several staff members ready to answer questions and provide additional information as questions arise. At the same time, we recognize that this continues to be a fluid situation and the information discussed today could change as the pandemic and state guidance shift.

Understand that our ultimate goal is to have all students and staff return to a fully in-person instructional delivery model as soon as it is safe to do so. We know that this is the most effective method of teaching and learning and is what our community ultimately wants. Our county and state partners in the health industry are going to guide us in this effort so that our decisions align with the recommendations of health professionals. Additionally, we are working with the Howard County Health Department to develop response and communication protocols that will be immediately activated if and when a positive case of COVID impacts a school or office, and we will have those protocols formalized soon.

I encourage the community to continue to visit the HCPSS website, as updated information is being posted regularly. Survey results and information will be posted today on Board Docs and updated on the HCPSS website by early next week. A comprehensive FAQ is also being finalized to help provide answers to questions and understanding around the considerations.

At this time, I would like to hand off to Scott Ruehl, the HCPSS Director of Leadership Development, who has done a phenomenal job leading several teams through this work under the direction of the Deputy Superintendent and will deliver the presentation to the Board this afternoon.