Dear MCPS Parents, Students, Staff and Community,
As we complete the first week of the state-mandated COVID-19 (coronavirus) emergency school closure, I hope you and your family are well and staying healthy. I know how incredibly difficult it is to find ways to establish new routines while navigating through the uncertainty of this challenging and rapidly evolving health crisis.
We are hearing from many members of the community who have questions about services and resources for students and families; instruction and learning for our students; and the school calendar. We will provide answers to those questions as soon as possible through our community messages and on our website. For those who have asked why teachers aren’t providing online instruction now, I want to share again that the March 16-27 closure of all Maryland schools is considered an emergency closure. During an emergency closure (such as snow and other inclement weather days), teachers and other employees who work while school is in session do not work. That means, from March 16–27, MCPS teachers are not expected to give students new assignments, tests or projects, or deliver new instruction. Please know our teachers care and want to support their students, and are looking forward to reconnecting with them as soon as possible.
While state officials have only announced a two-week emergency closure at this time, we are anticipating and actively preparing for the very real possibility of an extended closure. We expect to hear from our state officials in the coming days. Our preparation includes designing plans for innovative, remote student instruction (continuity of learning) that uses multiple tools (for example, online, TV and telephone and hard copy packets) to provide teaching and learning. We are also gathering and finalizing distribution plans for digital devices that will help ensure our students can fully engage in this new model. These devices will be prioritized for students in need.
Transitioning to a new learning model will take time and patience. Our students and staff will be asked to use various tools and engage in teaching and learning in new and creative ways. However, we are confident that instruction in this new model can be delivered successfully and effectively.
We will provide updates to the community on this new continuity of learning model next week.
For the week of March 23, we encourage you to continue to take full advantage of the learning activities and materials that were posted online through myMCPS Classroom. We have provided additional external online learning experiences and resources, as well as tips and ideas to engage your child on the MCPS website and on our MCPS social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook).
As a reminder, our school buildings are closed and we are asking our community to do their part to practice social distancing and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Students and adults should refrain from gathering in large groups on our playgrounds, fields, basketball courts and other outdoor spaces.
Below are additional updates as we go into the weekend.
We will continue to use multiple platforms to provide you with timely updates. While we have no way to predict how the days ahead will unfold, if we support each other and work together, we will get through this. We are in this together.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Expanded Meal Service
I’ve had an opportunity to check in at a few of our meal distribution sites, where I have seen our Food and Nutrition Services staff members and other MCPS staff hard at work ensuring children continue to have access to nutritious meals while schools are closed. To date, we have served more than 87,000 meals at 33 sites. I am pleased to share that we have expanded our service to include weekend backpack food sacks in collaboration with Manna Food Center. Starting Monday, March 23, we will provide meals at more than 40 sites (including mobile sites). I encourage families to take advantage of this service. We are also grateful for the many restaurants, nonprofit partners, PTAs and other organizations who have stepped up and are providing meals, groceries and gift cards to families in need. You can view the complete list of MCPS meal sites here.
Advanced Placement Test Administration
The College Board is working on a plan to support AP students with free, optional virtual learning and at-home testing. These resources will give students the opportunity to earn the college credit and placement they have been working toward all year. Colleges and universities are aware of this change and are accepting this new version of the AP test for 2019-2020 school year only. For more information, visit the College Board website.
Practicing Social Distancing
Slowing the spread of COVID-19 requires everyone to follow the guidance of health officials. An important piece of this effort is social distancing. This means avoiding gathering in groups of more than 10 and keeping a safe distance from others in a group. We are hearing from community members who have seen some students gathering together on our fields and ignoring social distancing guidance. By doing this, they are not only putting themselves at risk, but also everyone they interact with after that.
We know our students want to connect with their peers, especially in a time of crisis. Regardless of the intent, social gatherings have the potential to increase the spread of COVID-19. We ask that all members of the community join us in following the guidance that has been provided by the CDC and federal, state and local health officials.
Please remind your child(ren) to do their part and commit to social distancing. We must all do our part.
Supporting Our Students
MCPS continues to add a number of resources to support the physical, social and psychological well-being of students during this difficult time. These resources can be found here.