Update from Dr. Sovine on Instructional Plans

March 20, 2020

Thank you for your support and patience as we have navigated through a very challenging week. Despite the obstacles we have faced, there are many achievements to celebrate.

On Wednesday, our Student Support Services team began the three-day process of delivering about 1,700 Bright Futures Food Packs to the homes of our students who receive the food packs each week. Yesterday, our Information Technology team opened the Technical Triage Center to assist students and staff who experience problems with their school-issued devices. This morning, our School Nutrition Services and Transportation teams collaborated to offer grab-n-go meals at each of our high schools and numerous satellite locations throughout Frederick County. In addition, our teachers and other professional staff engaged in online training today and are anxious to support students instructionally.

Beginning Monday and continuing throughout next week, teachers will be developing materials and activities that students may complete at home in order to practice and reinforce skills and learning that has already occurred. Schools and teachers will also be contacting students and families through a variety of platforms in order to assess what resources students have that they may utilize as we work to continue educational services. Google Classroom, ClassDojo, Seesaw, Parent/Student 360 and the FCPS Rapid Communication System are all means by which teachers and schools may make contact with you next week. Questions about the continuity of education should be directed to your child’s teacher or school, but please recognize this is a work in progress and allow our educators time to plan and communicate with you next week.

The work completed by teachers and schools over the next seven days will result in our being able to provide students and parents with educational resources in a variety of ways beginning March 30 and continuing through at least April 9 (Spring Break is April 10-14). As we proceed toward providing students with opportunities to practice and reinforce skills that have already been taught, please understand that no new instruction is being provided to students at this time, including those students with disabilities. We are exploring options to make materials accessible to all students. In addition, there is no expectation for students to submit assignments or complete digital lessons. Work will not be graded and extra credit will not be awarded to students who complete learning activities offered during the closure.

Requiring students to complete work and have it graded is not fair considering each of our nearly 14,000 students and their families are dealing with a variety of circumstances, particularly at this unprecedented time. Public schools are required to provide equal educational opportunities to all students and we are committed to doing so. Frederick County Public Schools’ vision is “An innovative community where caring relationships and authentic learning inspire all students.” That vision continues to serve as our compass as we navigate the many challenges we’re facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. I plan to share more specifics about the continuity of educational services late next week.

As noted in the opening of this letter, we are offering many services to assist our students and their families. Details regarding the availability of these services can be found on our website (http://bit.ly/FCPSservices). General information about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and my previous communications to you are also available online (http://bit.ly/FCPSCOVID19).

As we continue dealing with COVID-19, please remain mindful of the importance of social distancing and personal health practices in combating illness. 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 are steps we can all take to help reduce the spread of illness.

It’s also important to recognize that the uncertainty associated with a dramatic change in routine is difficult for all of us, particularly students. The American School Counselor Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending parents remain aware of their child’s mental health during this challenging time. The American School Counselor Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations have offered a number of recommendations to assist parents in this area including limiting children’s exposure to media, providing a calming influence and helping children discuss their fears. Additional resources that may be helpful include:
Although great progress has been made over the past week in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is more work to be done, more questions to be answered and more issues to address. While there can be benefits associated with individuals sharing information on social media, it can also lead to the spread of misinformation and rumors. Therefore, I strongly recommend you rely solely upon our official communications for accurate information. Communication continues to be a primary focus and we are using many platforms to distribute information including the FCPS Rapid Communication System, the FCPS website and FCPS Facebook page. As a reminder, information about our response to the pandemic is available online in both English (http://bit.ly/FCPSCOVID19) and Spanish (http://bit.ly/FCPSCOVID19espanol).

Thanks again for your ongoing support, patience and willingness to help. I’m always impressed by our students, their families and FCPS staff. The passion, dedication, empathy, problem solving and hard work I’ve seen exhibited this week make me very proud to be a part of Frederick County Public Schools and our community.

Dr. David T. Sovine
Superintendent of Schools