Update from Dr. Sovine on Schedule Changes, Instructional Services, and Food Services and Other Supports

March 16, 2020

As has been the case over the past week, we will continue to communicate with you frequently about how Frederick County Public Schools is responding to the challenges we’re facing as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We appreciate your patience as we continue to prioritize needs and begin to execute our plans to address the many issues we’re facing in a rapidly changing environment. Below is updated information on a variety of topics. As a reminder, all previous communications I’ve sent to parents and staff as well as other important information is available on our Web page devoted to the schools division’s response to COVID-19.

Schedule Changes

  • As ordered by Governor Northam, all schools will remain closed through at least March 27. All school and extracurricular activities are also cancelled through at least March 27.
  • Teachers and other professional staff will not be required to report to work on Friday, March 20 for the scheduled Professional Learning Day. However, professional staff members are expected to participate in the March 20 professional learning which will now be provided online. Staff will receive additional details about the training schedule and how to access the training once plans are finalized.
  • Questions regarding when schools will reopen and the status of future events such as Spring Break and high school graduations are premature at this time. However, it should be noted that the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration provides school divisions with flexibility regarding the required number of school days/instructional hours required in the current school year as well as student graduation requirements. As of now, the 2019-20 FCPS School Calendar has not changed beyond March 27. However, it may become necessary to make changes in the future. Any changes will be communicated promptly to students, families and staff.
  • Kindergarten registration for the 2020-21 school year and the acceptance of preliminary applications for the 2020-21 FCPS Preschool Program have been postponed through March 27 with the understanding that the postponement may be extended. New student registration has also been postponed through at least March 27.
  • The FCPS Transportation Department’s Open House and Hiring Event scheduled for Friday, March 20 has been cancelled.
  • The programs on Critical Decision Points for Families of Children with Disabilities that were being offered by FCPS Special Instructional Services and the Parent Resource Center on March 16, 23 and 30 have been cancelled.

Instructional Services

  • Students do not have to worry about participating in online learning experiences this week. Information on our plans to provide online and other learning opportunities for students beginning next week will be shared in the coming days. Accommodations will be offered to families who do not have Internet service.
  • Despite school closures, mandated special education meetings will continue to occur. The student’s school or the Special Instructional Services Department will contact impacted families directly with additional information.
  • Students and staff who left personal items at school, including their school-issued Chromebooks, will be provided with an opportunity later this week to collect such items. Additional information on dates and times for such pickups will be communicated in the coming days.
  • Effective today, Comcast has made several enhancements to its Internet Essentials program to support families in response to COVID-19. These enhancements include making Xfinity WiFi hotspots available at no charge to anyone who needs them and offering new Internet Essentials customers two-months of free Internet service which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month. Additional information is available at www.internetessentials.com.

Food Services and Other Supports

  • The FCPS Student Support Services Department is working collaboratively with Bright Futures-Frederick/ Winchester to help meet the needs of students and families in need. From Wednesday, March 18-Friday, March 20, Bright Futures Food Packs containing two-week’s worth of weekend meals will be delivered by student support services staff to the homes of the 900-plus students who receive Bright Futures Food Packs each week through their schools. Any families who typically receive Bright Futures Food Packs but do not want the packs delivered to their home are asked to contact Bright Futures at (540) 667-2490 before Wednesday, March 18.
  • Bright Futures Frederick-Winchester needs additional community support and donations to continue providing food packs should school closures extend beyond March 27. Donations of non-perishable food items can be dropped off at the Bright Futures Distribution Center located at 178 Indian Hollow Road between 8 a.m. and
    5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Food donations can also be made outside of those hours by depositing items in the bins located at the entrance to the Bright Futures Distribution Center. List of current Food Pack Program needs.
  • Frederick County Public Schools is finalizing plans to provide free breakfast and lunch to school-aged children each weekday beginning this Friday, March 20. Meals will be available for pickup at James Wood, Millbrook and Sherando high schools as well as several satellite locations. Additional details will be communicated in the next several days as the schedule and plans are finalized.
  • We recognize the information about COVID-19, school closures along with a significant change in routine can lead to stress and anxiety. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other organization to help develop appropriate and effective messages on how to talk to children about COVID-19. Suggestions include limiting children’s exposure to media, providing a calming influence to students and helping students discuss their fears. Additional resources are noted below:
As you can see, a great deal of work continues to be done as we strive to serve our community well during this difficult time. Finally, I encourage you and your family members to continue to pay special attention to your personal health practices such as washing your hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and staying home if you are sick or have a fever. By working together, prioritizing and addressing challenges as they present themselves and focusing on the health and wellness of ourselves and our families, we will be able to persevere through the challenges we’re facing.

Thanks for your continued patience and support.

Dr. David T. Sovine
Superintendent of Schools