Update from Dr. Sovine on End of School Year, Instruction Survey and Upcoming School Year

June 3, 2020

As we conclude the final week of the 2019-20 school year and prepare to honor our graduating seniors with parades, virtual commencement exercises and in-person graduation experiences, I want to thank each of you for your patience, cooperation and support of your children during this most challenging school year. What we have overcome together over the past few months is significant and we have learned many things that will help us improve moving forward.

Your thoughts on the distance learning we offered after schools were closed as well as your perspective on the overall purpose and value of education will be important as we plan for the reopening of schools this fall. If you have not already done so, I encourage you to complete our brief, anonymous parent survey no later than 8 a.m. on Monday, June 8. The parent survey is available in both English and Spanish at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCPS_Parents or https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCPS_Spanish_Parent. We also are asking all students in grades 6-12 to complete the student survey which is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCPS_Students or https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FCPS_Spanish_Student. The information gathered through these surveys and the one we’re asking all teachers to complete will help us improve our services and instruction whether school is offered in-person or through distance learning when classes resume.

In anticipation of schools reopening for the 2020-21 school year on August 17, we are reviewing guidance provided by the local, state and federal public health agencies as well as the Virginia Department of Education. Some information is already available, but we anticipate additional guidance will be provided over the coming weeks. There are many questions we are continuing to work through in order to prepare for the upcoming school year including:
  • What modifications should be made to safely reopen schools? How can schools make those modifications?
  • What additional health and safety protocols need to be implemented?
  • How can attendance policies be altered to ensure students and staff can act in the best interest of their health and the health of others?
  • How do we determine and address any learning loss that may have occurred for some students?
  • How do we better implement distance learning should it become necessary?
  • How do we address students and staff for whom it’s not safe to return to school?
  • What changes may be necessary with regard to extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics?
We are committed to openly communicating with you throughout the summer as we receive updated guidance and address the multitude of questions we all have. In addition, I plan to provide a formal update on the reopening of schools following the School Board’s meeting on July 21. In the meantime, I encourage you to frequently check our website (www.frederick.k12.va.us) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/frederickcountypublicschools) for updates and other important information.

Although our planning for the upcoming school year is underway, I’m unable to share with certainty what the reopening will look like. It is very likely our reopening will be different than in years past and it will be important for all of us to practice patience and exhibit flexibility. Generally, we are planning for several possible reopening scenarios including a typical in-person opening, an opening with distance learning only, and a reopening that is a combination of in-person instruction and distance learning. Regardless of how we go about reopening our schools, our focus remains on inspiring students through authentic learning while keeping our community safe and healthy.

There have been many challenges since schools closed in March. In many cases, we have responded well, but we recognize there are also areas in which we can do better. Our teachers and other staff have done an outstanding job making adjustments in order to address student needs and unforeseen issues. However, we recognize the quality of learning for students hasn’t been equal to what they would have received had they been in their classrooms each day. This is particularly true for those students with limited or no Internet access. I can assure you that this experience will make us stronger and result in improvements to our in-person instruction, any distance learning that may be necessary in the future as well as our other operations. Learning is a life-long endeavor and some of the greatest lessons we learn are taught through adversity. This has certainly been a challenging year, but it has served as a great learning experience that will make us better in the future.

Finally, I want to remind you that individual schools will be sharing information in the near future regarding plans for students to retrieve personal items they may have left at school prior to the school closure. We are also asking families to work with individual schools to return school property such as library books, athletic uniforms, etc. Only students currently in the fifth, eighth and 12th grades will be required to return their Chromebook at the conclusion of the school year as they will be reissued a device when they return in the fall. All other students are to keep their Chromebook over the summer and be ready to use it during the upcoming school year. Specific questions about any of these processes as well as the distribution of yearbooks, items sold as part of school fundraisers, etc., should be directed to your child’s school.

I also want to remind you that we will continue to offer our Grab-n-Go meals program through June 30 with meal distribution taking place Monday through Thursday beginning on June 8. In addition, Bright Futures Frederick-Winchester will be continuing its food pack program throughout the summer. Details on both programs are available at http://bit.ly/FCPSservices.

I know the past few months have been difficult, but I’m encouraged by the way you, our students, staff members and other members of the community have come together to address each challenge and support our community’s children. We are stronger when we work together and all of us at FCPS look forward to serving you and your family over the summer and when schools reopen for the 2020-21 school year.

Dr. David T. Sovine
Superintendent of Schools