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From the Superintendent: Helping Our Children Navigate the Start of a New School Year

August 23rd, 2023

As I write to you, HCPSS staff are busy preparing for the arrival of more than 57,000 students—setting up classrooms, developing engaging lessons and ensuring our school buildings are fully ready to welcome back students. This is an exciting time, and as we prepare to begin the new school year, I wanted to connect with parents, guardians, caregivers and family members about the partnerships we need to better help our children transition back to school.

This year, one of our top priorities is to improve student attendance. I am deeply concerned about our school system’s data showing alarming declines in this area. Last year, nearly 21% of students were deemed chronically absent, meaning they missed 10% or more school days. There is so much expected of our staff and schools, and the reality is that we only have students in school for 1,170 total hours or less out of 8,760 in a year – representing just 13% of the year. This means every minute we have with our students is critical to the instruction, supports and experiences all of our students need to thrive. Compounding that limited time with high absentee rates makes the job infinitely more difficult.

A key piece to address attendance is making sure our schools are safe and welcoming places. This requires a close and personal partnership between a child’s parent/guardian and school staff. I encourage all parents/guardians to be active and engaged partners with your child’s school to support the needs of your child—particularly during this time of transition at the start of the school year. During the first week of school, school staff will be working to get to know students and establishing trusting relationships.

This year, some families are also navigating other changes, including moving to a different school, adjusted school start times, and possible changes in transportation. HCPSS staff have been diligently preparing for each of these changes and will respond as challenges arise. I encourage you to read our latest system updates and reach out to your child’s school with any questions.

I am grateful to all of our families and know I can count on you to be sure your child is in school every day they are able and that you will work with the staff in your child’s school to build the levels of support needed .

On behalf of all the Howard County Public School System staff, we are excited to welcome you and your children back and look forward to a wonderful 2023–2024 school year.