July 23, 2020: Distance Learning at MSD Will Continue This Fall Semester
Dear MSD Community,
After much consideration about the nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures necessary to guarantee the safety of our community, we have concluded that MSD's campuses will not open as the new school year begins.
Our Columbia and Frederick communities were recently polled regarding the return to school. The results of that surgery were very much aligned with national polls: the majority of your believe that returning to campus too soon would unnecessarily endanger the safety of students and staff. Attached to this letter are the results of that survey.
Governor Hogan and the Maryland State Department of Education are requiring MSD and all schools in the state of Maryland to create a detailed Recovery Plan for the safe return to school, such as transporting students on buses, conducting classes and athletics, serving meals, operating our residence halls, and following protocol throughout the day and night to keep everyone as safe as possible. The complexity and importance of this work will take months to complete. Therefore, we will spend at least the first semester of school year 2020-2021 in Distance Learning. The earliest MSD's campuses will open to students and staff will be January 25, 2021. Throughout the school year, MSD will regularly communicate with the entire community on our progress with planning and the implementation of the Recovery Plan. As returning to campus requires significant training for everyone, you will have ample notice before the campus opens for in-school services.
While this decision is prudent for safety reasons, it is challenging for teaching and learning. The challenges of Distance Learning are many, and the burden of working and learning in seclusion is difficult. However, we are blessed to live in an age where technology allows us to communicate in every way with English print and ASL. We are able to teach and our students are able to learn from our homes.
Last spring, all of us were launched into Distance Learning ... we were, each of us, figuring out a brand new way of operating. Despite the stress of those days, teachers and staff, families and students, all of you, did amazing work. This fall will be a better experience for everyone. We have learned what works and what does not; we have had time to make plans and make purchases; we now better understand the nature of this virus and have a sense of what is and is not safe. We have all learned how to do this better. Distance Learning for this first semester will be clear and manageable and a better experience for students, families and staff.
The first day of school for most faculty and staff is Monday, August 14, 2020. The first day of school for students is Monday, August 31, 2020. To prepare for the new school year, we will spend the summer communicating with you regarding plans for making Distance Learning a more manageable experience; for training students, staff and families in systems and technologies; for addressing issues of equity and social justice; and, as stated above, for making our campus safe once again for our return. All summer long you will be kept up to date on our planning.
Those are extraordinary times, historic times. We face a public health crisis, a looming economic crisis, and social unrest due to our country's long history of racism. In the days ahead, some of us will have loved ones who are sick. Some of us will be facing economic hardships. And all of us will be doing the difficult and essential work of understanding our role in a country that has yet to live up to its ideal of liberty and justice for all.
In these difficult times, we will stand together and we will care for one another. We look forward to the day we are all together again. Until that day we will be courageous and caring as we continue the important work of teaching and raising our children.
The ASL version of this letter (signed by Jenn Ortiz) is found at the following link: https://youtu.be/pQVILnionF4
MSD's Orioles Leadership Team:
James E. Tucker, Superintendent
Kevin Strachan, Principal, Frederick Campus
Jenn Ortiz, Dean of Student Affairs, Frederick Campus
Dawniela Patterson, Principal, Columbia Campus
Anny Currin, Director of Personnel
Ann Miller, Chief Financial Officer
Jennifer Lake, Special Assistant to the Superintendent/Coordinator of Administrative Projects