Update from Dr. Sovine on Additional Services Provided During School Closure

March 18, 2020

I want to start by thanking each of you for the incredible patience and flexibility you have exhibited as we work to address the many challenges associated with the coronavirus (COVID-19). We remain focused on protecting the health of our students and staff, implementing essential services many of our students and their families rely on, and providing learning opportunities for our students, although schools are going to be closed for an extended period of time.

Over the past several days, the continued spread of COVID-19 has resulted in additional steps being taken to limit the spread of the virus both nationally and in Virginia. To continue to safeguard our community, we are extending our school closures through at least Tuesday, April 14. While we hope to be able to reopen schools on April 15, there is a possibility closures may have to be extended beyond that date. In addition, all school offices and the school division’s administrative offices will be closed to the public beginning tomorrow and continuing through Friday, April 3. We recognize the significant impacts the extended closures have on the members of our school community and are committed to continuing our efforts to address those issues.

Beginning this Friday, March 20, all school-aged children will be able to pick up a free breakfast and lunch each weekday between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. at any of our three high schools. There are also numerous satellite locations throughout Frederick County where the meals will be distributed. Additional details are available at http://bit.ly/FCPSservices. We plan to continue to offer these meals through at least Thursday, April 9, which will mark the beginning of Spring Break (April 10-14).

In addition, members of our Student Support Services team will spend the next several days delivering two-weeks’ worth of food packs, courtesy of Bright Futures Frederick-Winchester, to the homes of the more than 900 students in our schools who receive Bright Futures Food Packs each week. Those interested in helping this effort are asked to consider donating food to Bright Futures. A list of the most needed items is available at http://bit.ly/BFfoodpackneeds. Donations can be dropped off at the Bright Futures Distribution Center, located at 178 Indian Hollow Road, at any time and should be placed in the bins located at the entrance to the center. In the next few days, we plan to share how individuals who would like to help by making a financial contribution to Bright Futures can do so through an online payment portal.

On Friday, our teachers and other professional staff will engage in online training designed to formalize the way in which we will plan to offer learning opportunities to students beginning next week. Please be on the lookout for additional communications later this week about the opportunities that will be made available to students and how these educational services will be delivered. The initial emphasis will be reinforcing skills and information that has been taught previously.

In order to assist students and staff who experience technical problems with their school-issued devices, including Chromebooks, our Information Technology Department will be operating a Technical Triage Center beginning tomorrow and continuing through at least April 9. The center will operate from the building located behind James Wood Middle School and be open weekdays from 7:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m., Noon-1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. The center can help with broken Chromebooks and laptops, locked user accounts and forgotten passwords as well as lost chargers and other equipment. In addition, our team will be offering technical support by phone during the same hours the Technical Triage Center is open. Students, parents and staff who have questions about school issued equipment can call 540-545-2434 for assistance during the hours noted above.

There are still many unanswered questions regarding instructional requirements and Standards of Learning (SOL) testing. While the situation remains fluid, the Virginia Department of Education announced yesterday that it’s seeking maximum flexibility for schools and students to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, including relief from federal and state testing requirements (http://bit.ly/3daiaty). The VDOE has also released an updated list of frequently asked questions about COVID-19’s impact on schools statewide (http://bit.ly/3d7JkkV).

I encourage you to remain attentive to our frequent communications which are being distributed through a variety of communication platforms including the FCPS Rapid Communication System, our website, and the FCPS Facebook page. A wealth of information regarding COVID-19 and our response to it is available on a special Web page we’ve devoted to this matter. The information found on our dedicated COVID-19 Web page has been translated into Spanish.

Finally, I want to thank the many individuals who have made generous offers to volunteer their time and other resources as we continue to address the many challenges presented by COVID-19. While we appreciate these offers, we are continuing to refine our response plans and are not in a position to systematically engage volunteers. We will provide more information as we identify opportunities for individuals to partner with us in serving our school communities.

Again, thanks to each of you for your ongoing support. Challenging times can bring out the best or the worst in individuals. As I work together with my leadership team, along with each of our schools and departments, it brings me great pride to see our staff giving selflessly of themselves while exhibiting a strong dedication to serving all of our students and their families well.

Dr. David T. Sovine
Superintendent of Schools