From the Leadership Team

January 7, 2022: Updated Mitigation and Safety Measures
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Due to the highly contagious Omicron variant, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in our state and across the nation. As we evaluate health metrics in our school and in our region, we are committed to keeping our school open and to providing a safe learning and working environment where the health and safety of our students and staff are at the forefront.
 
MSD will continue to utilize available resources and mitigation strategies in alignment with the federal and state requirements and expectations of keeping schools open for in-person learning. In addition to our multi-layered mitigation strategies, which include masking, sanitizing, and distancing, we have implemented several temporary mitigation and safety measures to enhance our efforts. The following updates are effective immediately.
 
Virtual Learning
While in-person instruction remains the default instructional model at MSD, circumstances have warranted a contingency plan if indeed a shift to a temporary virtual instruction model becomes necessary. Virtual learning shall be considered when the number of unavailable staff results in limitations to safely operate our school.
 
While there are no predetermined thresholds that would result in the decision to close a department, a campus, or the school, the decision on whether to close or transition to virtual learning will be based on the number of staff who are testing positive and the number of staff out due to COVID-related absences. MSD must also evaluate operational factors including the availability of classroom staff, school nurses, and food service and housekeeping employees.
 
If a shift to virtual learning is necessary, this instructional model will remain virtual only until adequate numbers of staff return and school operations may continue safely in an in-person setting. At this time, there is no specific time frame pertaining to the number of days virtual learning will occur. The length of this temporary arrangement may vary from a single school day, to several consecutive days, or even a week or two.
 
The number of students testing positive and the level of spread within a department will also be assessed when deciding if a transition to virtual learning is indeed necessary. This decision will include a discussion with the local health department.
 
The decision to close a department, a campus, or the school will be made on a case-by-case basis and shall be communicated with families and staff as soon as a decision is made. Please note that the closure does not automatically result in a transition to virtual learning; this is contingent upon availability of teachers and staff to provide synchronous instruction.
 
Scheduling and Planning
  • All students and staff shall bring their school-issued device home and to school daily.
  • If a department or the school goes into virtual learning, the virtual school day will begin and end at the same time as in-person learning. Classes will begin on time.
  • Teachers will deliver all virtual instruction in a synchronous, live format. The amount of time spent in each class may be adjusted to allow for appropriate screen time and breaks during the day.
  • Related services and student support services (i.e.: Counseling, Speech and Language, Occupational Therapy, Orientation and Mobility, and Physical Therapy) will remain as scheduled and shall be provided on a virtual platform.
  • WiFi hotspots shall be made available for families in need to ensure access to virtual instruction and online resources.
School Communications
Parents/Guardians and staff will be notified when a decision has been made to close or to transition to virtual learning. Primary means of communication with parents/guardians, students, and staff will be through emails from campus principals, assistant principals, and classroom teachers. Announcements will also include the following forms of communication: MSD's school website, social media sites, and One Call Now, a new system that sends messages via text and emails. To receive text messages from One Call Now, please text #ConnectMSD to 22300.
 
Field Trips
Field trips (excluding team competitions) are temporarily suspended.
 
Visitors
Visitors, volunteers, and activities will be limited on campus. The planning and scheduling of visits will be contingent upon sizing, grouping, and purpose of such visits.
 
Spectators at Home Athletic Contests
There will be no fans permitted at any home athletic contests until further notice. All high school sports home games in the Benson Gym will be available via live-streaming at www.youtube.com/MSDAthletics
 
Vaccinations and Testing
All Marylanders who are 5 years and older are currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. For local pharmacies and other locations offering the vaccine and boosters, visit https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/ or www.vaccines.gov/ and search by zipcode. If you need help scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, go to www.marylandvax.org or call 1-855-MDGoVax (855-634-6829) to schedule an appointment.
 
Should you need to be tested for COVID, you can locate testing centers at https://coronavirus.maryland.gov.
 
The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and the Maryland Department of Health have recently released COVID-19 fact sheets for Marylanders to learn more about vaccinations, boosters, high-risk health conditions, antibody treatments, and COVID-19 testing. Read the full set here
 
Interim K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Guidance
The Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education just released an interim K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Guidance. We are reviewing the guidance with our current protocol and will share an update with the community next week.
 
Monitoring and Reporting Symptoms and Positive Cases
It is critical that families and staff continue to report positive cases to the school as soon as possible so that our team can conduct contact tracing to see who else at the school might have been exposed. If your child is experiencing any of the COVID-like symptoms, please keep your child home no matter how mild it is.
 
For nearly two years we have all worked together to take care of our children and each other. I can't thank you enough for your continued partnership and support as we work to maintain a safe school community.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
December 30, 2021: COVID & Returning to School
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
I hope this finds you and your families safe and well and enjoying the holiday season. Since our last day of school on December 17, the Omicron variant has spread like wildfire, both in the US and the world. COVID-19 is once again disrupting our travel plans and our businesses, and again our hospitals are at full capacity. I am writing to you to share some information about our return to school next week.
 
We intend to open our dorms on Sunday, January 2, 2022, and our school on Monday, January 3. Our relatively small class sizes and our ability to spread out over two large campuses make us optimistic that we can manage this current chapter of COVID.
 
We are concerned about staff coverage and our ability to keep school open. At this time, should MSD have to close it will not be a shift to distance learning. If the virus closes us, it will be managed like a snow day to be made up in June. We will continue to evaluate and communicate accordingly.
 
Returning safely will require that we follow our safety protocols. So we are writing to remind you of expectations.
  • If your child is experiencing any of the COVID-like symptoms, please keep your child home no matter how mild it is. Even with a negative COVID test, no sick child should ever be sent to school. Please review the When to Keep Children Home document that outlines information about COVID-19 as well as our general sick policy for students.
  • If your child tests positive for COVID-19, your child should stay home for 10 days and return only when their symptoms have improved and they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • If your child tests positive for COVID-19, it is essential that you let the school know so that we can conduct contact tracing as soon as possible to see who else at school might have been exposed.
  • If someone in your home tests positive, your unvaccinated child should stay home and our team will work with you on determining when your child can return; your vaccinated child can come to school if not experiencing any COVID-19-like symptoms and consistently wears a mask correctly in public settings.
Please know that when we return to school we will continue to strictly follow the distancing and masking guidelines. There are a few students in school who are capable of being responsible but who too often are inconsistent with their mask wearing. In this public health crisis, we will address this dangerous neglect or defiance in a very serious way up to and including suspension from school. Compliance with safety protocols is simply not negotiable. Please talk with your children about their responsibility to keep others in their school and community safe.
 
After nearly two years, we continue to live in unsettled times. So we will stay diligently attentive to the health of students and staff so that we may continue with the important business of teaching and learning.
 
Enjoy the remainder of this break. Happy New Year. We hope that 2022 is good to you and those you love.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
December 6, 2021: Community Update
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
We are almost halfway through the quarter with the second quarter interim this Wednesday, December 8. On Friday, December 17, we will close school at noon for the winter break. I wish you and your family all the joys of the holiday season. As we head into the new year, let us take the time to reflect on the past year and all that we are grateful for.
 
Here are two important announcements to share with you:
 
Adjustments to School Calendar
The pandemic has taken its toll on all of us. Having staff and students back on campus felt like the beginning of a return to normalcy, but teaching and learning during this time has its challenges. Our staff continue to work tirelessly to enrich and support our students and we are incredibly thankful for their hard work and dedication. As we head into winter and with news of a new coronavirus variant, it is more important than ever to take care of each other and ourselves. In an effort to give everyone much needed breaks throughout the rest of the school year, we are adjusting the school calendar moving six scheduled full days to half days. On these days school will close at noon for students and staff.
 
The following school days will now be half days:
  • Friday, December 17, 2021
  • Friday, January 14, 2022
  • Friday, February 4, 2022
  • Friday, March 4, 2022
  • Friday, April 1, 2022
  • Thursday, April 14, 2022
Academic Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities Policy
First and foremost, MSD recognizes the importance of academic rigor and preparation as the basic focus for all students. Participating in extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics is also important to the development of a whole child and supplements the academic experience. The Academic Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities Policy is an attempt to provide a positive opportunity to encourage students to fulfill their academic responsibilities while also participating in extracurricular activities. This policy was recently revised with input from our stakeholders and was approved by the MSD Board of Trustees at their November 12, 2021 quarterly meeting.
 
In an effort to maintain high expectations for learning, middle school and high school students will achieve a minimum of 2.0 grade point average (GPA) in order to be eligible for extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics. This is not determined by the cumulative GPA; rather, this is based on a calculation of the quarterly GPA.
 
Students whose GPA is below 2.0 at the end of the quarter will no longer be able to fully participate in their sport, school play, club, etc. For athletics, school plays, and academic clubs, they may still attend practice/rehearsal as they strive to improve their GPA. For other student organizations and clubs, they may still attend meetings but cannot participate in organizations and clubs' activities.
 
This does not impact the After School Program (ASP) or residential living. Also students who are in Special Olympics, including Unified Sports, or whose IEPs indicate significant cognitive delays are exempt from this policy.
 
Academic Support
For all middle school and high school students with a cumulative GPA of 2.3 or lower, whether they are involved with after school activities or not, MSD will provide mandatory academic support with studies. This will be tailored to the content area or skills most essential for improving class performance.
 
Students will receive academic support Monday through Thursday. There are different tutoring options available to fit the student's scheduling needs. Tutoring sessions may be offered during lunch, immediately after school, in MSD's residence halls, or a combination of these options. For students with less than a 2.0 GPA, school administrators will develop a Grade Recovery Plan with guidance on how the school, residence halls, and families can support the student.
 
If at the interim of the quarter, which is approximately four and a half weeks after report cards are issued, the student has a GPA above 2.0, they will be allowed to return to full participation in extracurricular activities. If they earn a GPA above 2.3, they can discontinue mandatory academic support, or they can maintain the tutoring to support their studies.
 
Appeals
If a student or family believes that the Eligibility Policy is not fair due to family or personal hardship, or a student's disability, or any other extenuating circumstance, the student or family may appeal the decision. In such cases, the appeal will be reviewed by MSD's (1) campus principal, (2) Director of the program in question, (3) Compliance Officer, (4) Chief Diversity Officer, and (5) School Psychologist. The decision of this team will be final. The student will not participate in extracurricular activities until the appeal has been investigated and a decision has been made.
 
This policy is effective on Monday, January 24, 2022, the first day of the third quarter. MSD will review grade reports from the second quarter for middle school and high school students to determine student eligibility in extracurricular activities and interscholastic athletics for the third quarter.
 
To read the new Academic Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities policy in its entirety, please visit page 30 of the MSD Handbook at www.msd.edu/handbook/
 
If you have any questions about the adjustments to our school calendar or the Academic Eligibility for Extracurricular Activities policy, please feel free to contact your child's campus principal. 
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
November 12, 2021: Modified Quarantine Protocol
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
As we are at the end of the first week of the second quarter, we would like to share MSD's school data on positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff, as well as our quarantine data. The data shared below is collected from August 30 through November 5, which is the first quarter of the Fall 2021 semester.
    • Total COVID-19 positive cases reported to MSD: 16
    • Total Students Quarantined: 98
Our decision to quarantine close contacts is based on the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland Department of Education's guidance for schools. A revised version of the guidance was recently released on October 27 and includes new recommendations expected to reduce the number of students required to quarantine.
 
Based on our school data, we have decided to follow the Modified Quarantine with correct and consistent use of well-fitting masks option. The Maryland Department of Health has added this option based on the extremely low-risk of COVID-19 transmission in a classroom setting where face masks are used appropriately as well as having multiple layers of prevention measures in place.
 
The Modified Quarantine option does not apply to staff or for exposures where masks are not correctly and consistently worn; the CDC Shortened Quarantine option will apply to staff who are not fully vaccinated and to students who are not fully vaccinated and did not wear their masks correctly and consistently. 
 
There are, and may be, moments throughout the day when students are not required to wear masks, or may not correctly or consistently wear their masks. These moments include lunch period, snack time, recess, nap time, and athletics.
 
Beginning November 15, if certain criteria are met, students may not have to quarantine or may be directed to quarantine for a reduced period of time.
  • With this option, the guidance states that as long as the infected student and the exposed student who is not fully vaccinated both correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks during exposure, the close contact may remain in school as long as they remain asymptomatic.
  • Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated and were not fully masked at the time of exposure are to follow the CDC Shortened Quarantine. This revised guidance allows individuals who are not experiencing symptoms to quarantine for 10 days and return on day 11. Alternatively, the quarantine period may be reduced to 7 days if the close contact tests on day 5 or later and receives a negative result. The close contact can return to school on day 8, but must continue to monitor for symptoms. The last day of exposure to the positive individual is counted as day 0. This option also requires the close contact to quarantine outside of school settings and prohibits participation in indoor or high-contact athletics, and indoor forced exhalation activities, such as exercising. 
  • Close contacts who have been fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine. They may return to school if they do not have symptoms, consistently and correctly wear a mask in public, and continue to monitor their health for symptoms for a full 14 days. If symptoms develop, they should immediately isolate and get tested.
If the close contact develops symptoms at any time during the quarantine period, they should immediately isolate and get tested. A shorter quarantine is not an option for those who do not correctly and consistently wear a mask. These individuals must quarantine for a full 14 days.
 
As always, families reserve the right to decide to follow the modified quarantine protocol as outlined, or keep their child at home for the 14 day quarantine period.
 
After reviewing updated guidance from the state and our school data, we are comfortable with the change in our quarantine policy at this time. We will continue to monitor data and health metrics in our school, in our counties, and across the state to inform our decisions.
 
As always, please feel free to contact me or your campus principal any time you have questions or concerns.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
October 7, 2021: Community Update
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
We are halfway through the first quarter.
 
Here are some announcements and updates to share with you:
 
Decision on Quarantine Period
If an individual in our community tests positive for COVID-19, all students and staff who came into close contact with the individual are directly notified. All close contacts should monitor their health for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days from the date of exposure; however, if a quarantine period is required, the length of quarantine is determined by several factors:
  • Vaccination status
  • Correct and consistent mask usage
  • If symptoms are present 
  • COVID-19 test results
  • If the positive case if a member of your household
The decision to quarantine close contacts is based on the Maryland Department of Health's guidance for schools.
 
The recommendation for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated or who have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days is to:
  • Quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms. Quarantine starts from the last day of contact with a positive individual. 
  • If symptoms are not present, the quarantine period may be reduced to 10 days and the close contact may return to school on day 11. Continue to monitor for symptoms, mask, and social distance.
  • Alternatively, if symptoms are not present, the quarantine period may be reduced to 7 days if the close contact tests on day 5 or later and receives a negative result. The close contact can return to school on day 8, but must continue to monitor for symptoms.
If the close contact develops symptoms at any time during the quarantine period, they should immediately isolate and get tested. A shorter quarantine is not an option for those who do not correctly and consistently wear a mask. These individuals must quarantine for a full 14 days.
 
Close contacts who have been fully vaccinated may return to school if they do not have symptoms and consistently mask in public. While not required, it is recommended that a fully vaccinated individual test on day 3-5 following the last exposure of a positive case and continue to monitor their health for symptoms for a full 14 days. If symptoms develop, they should immediately isolate and get tested.

Quarantine Learning Plans and Compensatory Education Services
As there is great need for additional support with coordinating and supporting student learning plans for each student in quarantine, we recently hired Yvonne Weinstein, a former MSD employee who served as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at the Columbia Campus. She will support our curriculum team and assistant principals in coordinating learning plans and provide support with Compensatory Education Services this academic year.
 
Instructional Supports for Students in Quarantine
While a student is in quarantine, there are several opportunities to remain engaged in learning and receive support. Although absences for students in quarantine are considered excused absences, it is vital that students remain virtually involved with their school work so they are able to return from quarantine and transition back into in-person instruction. Please click here for an overview of instructional supports available for our students in quarantine.
 
Homecoming Royalty Court
We are excited to continue our annual Homecoming event this year with our students, staff, and alumni. One of the main events, the Homecoming Royalty Court, will see some changes that align with MSD's gender inclusivity mission.
 
When we reviewed the Homecoming Royalty process, we recognized the need for change. We firmly believe that an opportunity to make changes for inclusivity should never have to wait. However, we understand that the need for community input is valuable. We will seek input from our students, staff, families, and alumni to make permanent changes ready for next year's Homecoming event.
 
In the meantime, we want to share with you two updates: the voting process and royalty titles. Instead of voting solely based on gender, each high school student will vote for the top two individuals in their class. Secondly, the Homecoming Royalty title will replace the title of King and Queen whilst Homecoming Court will replace the title of Prince and Princess.
 
We appreciate your understanding and support of these temporary, yet immediate changes. Once more, we will ensure the opportunity for review from our school community to choose permanent inclusivity for all of our students.
 
As always, please feel free to contact me or your campus principal any time you have questions or concerns.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
September 21, 2021: Community Update
 
Dear MSD Community,
 
We are now in our fourth week of school, and just last week we had our first five-day, in-person week of classes since March 2020. It has been great seeing our campuses come alive again! Although it feels like time stopped the last 18 months, our students grew all-around. We are delighted to have our students on campus once again for in-person learning and opportunities.
 
We are all itching for normalcy again, but what we must recognize is that the normalcy we once embraced pre-pandemic is no longer there. What we do know is that the pandemic is still very much present in our lives. Our quarantine protocol is all-consuming, ever-changing, and overwhelming for many of us. We recognize that our families, teachers, and staff are exhausted, frustrated, and stressed. Some of us are scared. I can only ask that we be kind and supportive to one another. There may be times where we may disagree with one another or with a school policy or protocol; the best thing to do is to communicate with patience and civility.
 
Here are some announcements and updates to share with you:
 
Hispanic Heritage Month
In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, our Chief Diversity Officer has planned several activities to celebrate the history, cultures, and contributions of Hispanic/Latino/a/x Americans. We are proud of our Deaf Youth Latinx Club and look forward to their meetings and events throughout the school year. This month and all year long, let us celebrate together, enrich our perspectives, and express our appreciation of our Hispanic and Latino/a/x students, staff, families, and community members.
 
Reopening Guide
We are pleased to share that our Reopening Guide is now posted on our website at www.msd.edu/reopening/. This Reopening Guide should be considered a working document which means that the criteria and recommendations are based on known factors at the time of writing. As more information becomes available, the guidelines will be updated as appropriate or within every six months until September 30, 2024. The MSD Handbook is still in effect for the 2021-2022 school year; the Reopening Guide serves in addition to the handbook.
 
Feedback and input from our parents/guardians, families, students, staff, and stakeholders help inform our planning. Please visit https://bit.ly/MSDReopeningGuideFeedbackForm to provide feedback on our Reopening Guide anytime throughout the year.
 
The Removal of Plexiglass Partitions
Following guidance from the Maryland Department of Health, MSD shall begin removing plexiglass partitions from all classrooms, residence halls, cafeterias, and all other common areas on both campuses. Researchers have found that plexiglass dividers impede air flow and have not been shown to prevent transmission. Our maintenance department will now begin to gradually remove these partitions. 
 
Accreditation Extended
MSD is fully accredited through the Middle States Association following their Sustaining Excellence Protocol. Under this accreditation protocol, MSD engages in strategic planning and action research surrounding this self-study research question: How can the use of technology foster improved engagement, involvement, education, and collaboration with diverse Maryland School for the Deaf families throughout the state of Maryland as it relates to language and social/emotional development as well as academic support to enhance student academic achievement?
 
MSD was scheduled to present an update on our status and initial findings by hosting a colloquium this Spring 2022. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted our ability to fully implement our research during the 2020-2021 school year, our request for an extension was granted. We will now be hosting a colloquium next year in the spring of 2023. This event will be open to our MSD families, and as we near the actual event, more information will be shared with the community.
 
Should you be interested in serving on the Action Team for Partnerships, the committee responsible for the implementation of the Action Research, please contact our Director of Accreditation Tara Holloway via email at tara.holloway@msd.edu
 
Homecoming 2021
This year, Homecoming week is from October 12 to October 16, with Homecoming Day scheduled for Saturday, October 16. In an effort to make the weekend safer for all attending, this will not be a traditional event. More information will be shared shortly.
 
MSD Board of Trustees Special Meeting
The Maryland School for the Deaf Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting this evening—Tuesday, September 21—from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Read the meeting announcement and agenda on our website at www.msd.edu/boardoftrustees/
 
Back to School Event
Join us for our Back to School event this Friday, September 24. This will be a virtual event where you are able to interact LIVE with staff in your child's department. More information to come from your child's assistant principal.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
August 30, 2021: Welcome Back to School!
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Welcome back! We are excited to get the 2021-2022 school year started.
 
Welcome back to school message from MSD's Orioles Leadership Team.
 
Families, students, and staff are invited to share their favorite first day of school snapshots with us. Direct message your snapshots to @MSDorioles on Instagram, email socialmedia@msd.edu, or use the hashtag #MSDFirstDay and your photos may be featured in our Back to School album on our website and social media pages.
 
Show your school spirit on Fridays!
This year, we are inviting our staff, students, and community members to wear school colors—orange and black—on Fridays. Our after school programs and Student Life staff will lead the school colors celebration early on Thursdays. Shop online here if you would like to purchase your own customized school gear.
 
Here are some things you need to know about our reopening:
 
Health and Safety
MSD is implementing a multi-layered health and safety protocol to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Enhanced mitigation measures include the use of face coverings, increased sanitization, physical distancing decals and plexiglass partitions, and improved ventilation with open windows and air purifiers in classrooms, residence halls, and common areas. In addition, MSD employees will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or undergo regular weekly COVID-19 testing, starting the first week of September. This requirement applies to all employees, interns, coaches, and any regular volunteers at MSD.
 
Contact Tracing and Communicating Positive Cases
When an individual on MSD campus tests positive for COVID-19, MSD's contact tracers will identify those who have had direct contact and follow up with any quarantine instructions. MSD will continue to notify the school community of any positive COVID-19 cases. Parents/guardians must notify school leadership if their child is exposed to COVID-19 or receives a positive test result. When the school administration is made aware of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, MSD will inform and work with local health departments to support their contact tracing efforts.
 
Quarantine Plan for Supporting Student Learning
MSD will strive to support continued student learning during any required quarantine due to COVID-19. If a student is quarantined, their absence from school will be excused. Students will be able to access their classroom assignments on their teacher's online platform (i.e. Google Classroom, Seesaw, etc.). In the event that a student does not have access to the internet from their home, arrangements for the delivery of the hard copies of work, instruction content, and materials needed to complete the work will be made with parent/guardian involvement.
 
MSD teachers will be required to upload student assignments within 24 business hours of the lesson delivery for students to access their missed instruction. Students will not receive live, virtual instruction from a teacher on a separate schedule from their peers; MSD will offer additional instructional support from MSD employees before school, after school, during prep times, or by other agreed upon appointment times made individually with parents/guardians to meet specific household needs during the quarantine period.
 
Students in middle and high school grade bands have electronic devices that they bring back and forth to school which allow them access to uploaded instructional materials and content in the event of a quarantine period. Elementary students will have the ability to bring their devices home in the event that a quarantine period is known before they go home for an extended duration. If an elementary student goes home without their device and their stay becomes extended due to a quarantine requirement, MSD will make arrangements for the delivery of the device and any other instructional materials to the child's home, if needed.
 
Students and families in need of access to high speed internet will be provided with a hotspot by MSD in the event that their child is quarantined and requires access to online platforms and instructional materials.
 
If a student needs to quarantine at any time during the school year, or if students must return to an online learning environment, related services will continue to be provided via a telehealth platform.
 
School Closings for Inclement Weather
Inclement weather or other safety conditions may require MSD to close or have a delayed opening. At this time, the Maryland State Department of Education has instructed schools that a shift to online learning in the event of inclement weather will not be permitted and that any missed days will need to be made up. Should MSD need to close campus, there will be no instruction or after school and extracurricular activities that day.
 
Our school calendar does not include make-up days due to inclement weather or other emergency closings. At this time, our last day of school is on Friday, June 10, 2022. MSD reserves the right to extend the school year after June 10, 2022 or to modify the calendar in the event that additional days are needed to meet the 180-day requirement for students.
 
Addressing the Well-Being of MSD Students and Staff
In an effort to support the whole child, additional social, emotional, and behavioral support will be provided by school staff and members of the Mental Health Team (school social workers, counselors, and psychologists) as students return to school. Support includes professional development for MSD staff, regular check-ins with students and staff, the integration of social and emotional learning during lessons, and availability to consult with families and staff members on an as-needed basis.
 
Virtual Town Halls for Families
Our campus principals will schedule virtual joint-campus forums to answer any questions families may have related to MSD or with our reopening plans in September. More information will be shared shortly.
 
Online and Hybrid Learning
MSD will not close buildings and move to online instruction for all students unless state government officials order the school to do so. If the state orders reduced capacity in school buildings, MSD is developing a plan for hybrid instruction where students would receive in-person instruction on some days and online instruction on other days.
 
Let's look forward to a new school year together!
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
August 20, 2021: Important Updates
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
The 2021-2022 school year is around the corner! It is the 154th year for the Frederick Campus and the 49th year for the Columbia Campus. Only four years ago we celebrated our 150th anniversary. Only next year we will celebrate Columbia Campus' 50th school year.
 
Forward Together
 
Our theme for the last school year was Standing Together. While we will continue to stand together, we must work together to move forward. As I mentioned in my previous email, this will be another unique year with the pandemic and we still have a lot of work to do with social justice and bettering ourselves as individuals and as a whole. Some of us are returning to school for the first time since March 2020 and this will be an adjustment for many. Regardless of the obstacles that may come our way, we need to continue to move forward together. This year's theme reminds us to embrace these challenges and to pursue progress together. With progress, we can grow, transform, and thrive.
 
We would like to recognize the artist of our logo, Julie Bourne. She is currently a Career and Technology Education (CTE) teacher on our Frederick Campus. Thank you Julie for designing this beautiful logo.
 
We normally like to invite the community to decide on what the ASL sign for the theme should be. Some years, this comes from one of our students. Some years, it comes from one of our staff. And some years, we have several signs depending on the context. We are looking forward to learning what the ASL sign for the theme will be this year.
 
Back to School Event
We were hoping that we would be able to return to our annual back-to-school event this year. As a safety measure, we will not be able to organize this event in-person this year. In observance of Rosh Hashanah, our traditionally scheduled back-to-school event for the Tuesday after Labor Day will be hosted virtually on Friday, September 24. More information will be shared soon.
 
Pandemic Response
At this time, our symptom screening procedure has changed. Parents/guardians are now responsible for screening their child for COVID-19-like symptoms (see list below) before sending their child to school. The school will check body temperatures as students arrive. Students will continue to be observed throughout the day for any signs of COVID-19-like symptoms.
 
To review, the COVID-19-like symptoms are as follows:
  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
If a student's temperature reads 99.4 or higher and/or symptoms are observed at any time through the school day, the student will be sent to our Student Health Center to be assessed further by a school nurse. If our school nurse determines the student is showing COVID-19-like symptoms, a parent/guardian will be contacted for immediate pick-up. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of keeping your child(ren) home if s/he does not feel well or has symptoms. 
 
The decision to quarantine a student/group of students may vary; we will use the decision aid chart developed by the Maryland Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education to guide our decision. MSD's principal offices will send a letter to those who need to quarantine.
 
MSD will strive to minimize the disruption to student learning during the quarantine period; if a student is quarantined, their absence from school will be excused and their school work will be sent home. If a student needs support during this period, they may contact their teacher.
 
We will continue to enforce and emphasize the importance of M.S.D.:
  • Mask - Masks will be required indoors for anyone 2 years and older with exception for those who are exempt from wearing a face covering. Masks should be properly fitted and snug from nose to chin. Gaiters, masks with valves, and mesh masks are not permitted. If masks are damaged or soiled throughout the day, the school will provide a disposable mask.
  • Sanitize - Sanitization stations are plentiful and available throughout all of our school buildings. Everyone is encouraged to sanitize their hands frequently, especially as they transfer from place to place. Wipes will be provided to keep spaces sanitized throughout the day. We are almost done with updating sinks, toilets, and paper towel dispensers in our restrooms with contactless accessories. Daily meals will be pre-packaged in boxes.
  • Distance - Physical distancing will be maintained. There are social distancing decals on the floor in our hallways. Plexiglass partitions are also set up in classrooms and cafeterias to support distancing. Restroom capacity is limited to every other stall. Each classroom and student common area has an air purifier.
Moving forward, we will only communicate laboratory-confirmed positive cases with the community. 
 
What used to be a Recovery Plan will now be called the Reopening Guide. We will be sharing a working draft which means that the criteria and recommendations are based on known factors at the time of writing. As more information becomes available, the guidelines will be updated as appropriate or within every six months until 2024. We welcome feedback from our school community year round.
 
We also have a Pandemic Response Team dedicated to reviewing information from the CDC and the state, and we will continue to implement best practices as new information becomes available. 
 
I want to acknowledge that many of us still feel uncertain about what may come. As we get ready for the first day of school, let's hold onto the joy of being together in-person again. For many of our students, in-person instruction supports both their educational progress and their well-being. We need each other; we need to challenge our thinking together in-person. This is possible only if we enforce and practice safety precautions at all times.
 
Let's move forward together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
August 16, 2021: Passing of Mr. Alfred "Al" Shockley
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
It is with sadness and thanksgiving for a life well lived that I inform you of the passing of Alfred (Al) Shockley. Al Shockley and his family have been involved with MSD for many years. Mr. Shockley's parents were MSD alumni and this fostered his involvement with MSD.
 
Al Shockley was appointed by the Governor to the MSD Board of Visitors (now the Board of Trustees) and he was behind the establishment of the MSD Foundation. In 1987, he was the first president of the Foundation.
 
On a personal note, I remember the assistance Al Shockley provided to MSD in the early 2000's when we were hosting many state legislators to secure funding for the new Kent-McCanner Building. His bubbling personality and willingness to assist MSD helped this process greatly.
 
The Shockley House is named for the family for their many years of service to MSD. Al Shockley's daughter Marisa Shockley currently sits on the board of the MSD Foundation.
 
MSD is very appreciative of all the time and dedication Al Shockley gave to the school throughout his lifetime.
 
Sincerely,
 
Ann Miller
Chief Financial Officer/Chief Operating Officer
August 9, 2021: Update on School Year 2021-2022
 
Dear MSD Community, 
 
Our 11 month employees have returned today. The rest of the staff will return within the next two weeks. Our students' first day of school will be Monday, August 30th. We are excited to start another academic year.
 
This school year will still be a unique and challenging one with ongoing concerns with the pandemic and currently the Delta variant. We now have a better understanding of the virus and can take the necessary precautions so that we can move forward.
 
As of today, our plan remains this:
  • We will open on time, Monday, August 30th.
  • We will be open 5 days a week, 8:00am to 3:00pm.
  • All students will return at once.
  • Student meals are planned to ensure the safety of students and staff with some students eating in the cafeteria and some students eating in classrooms. Each table/desk will have divided plexiglass. A staggered schedule may be necessary.
  • After school activities and athletics will resume.
  • Dorms will open. We may consider limited capacity to ensure the health and safety of our dorm students.
  • We will not offer distance learning at this time.
We will continue to require masks indoors only, to encourage frequent hand washing and use of hand sanitizer, and to maintain personal distance. We will be implementing new screening and response protocols, the details of which will be communicated in the coming days.
 
As always, we will continue to monitor things closely. Our decisions are based on a combination of guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics, the State of Maryland, local and state Health Departments, Frederick County Public Schools and Howard County Public School System. We also share resources from other deaf and hard of hearing schools/programs on best practices or best approach with the pandemic.
 
Despite the challenges we face, we also face being together again, and that is something to look forward to.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
June 28, 2021: Water Testing Results at Frederick Campus
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
In compliance with Maryland Law, MSD has tested the drinking water faucets/outlets at the Frederick Campus. The regulations have changed since the last testing cycle. Previously, drinking water that contained lead amounts less than 20 parts per billion (ppb) was considered acceptable. Currently, all drinking water is considered acceptable at less than 5 ppb.
 
MSD being closed for a large part of the school year and reduced numbers of students and staff on campus created a situation where water outlets that passed the lead testing three years ago, have now failed. In consultation with the testing company, MSD learned that this is probably due to the fact we had a school year where less than average amounts of water were run through the pipes. However, MSD takes this situation seriously and is working on remediation of these water outlets.
 
MSD's Frederick Campus had 86 faucets/outlets with lead levels at above 5 ppb. We have restricted access to those outlets until remedial action has been taken. The attachment shared here contains details of these tests and further information regarding lead in drinking water.
 
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at kevin.strachan@msd.edu or Ann Miller, MSD Chief Operating Officer, at ann.miller@msd.edu.
 
MSD wishes students, families and staff a happy and safe summer.
 
Sincerely,
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
June 11, 2021: Water Testing Results at Columbia Campus
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
In compliance with Maryland Law, MSD has tested the drinking water faucets/outlets at the Columbia Campus. The regulations have changed since the last testing cycle. Previously, drinking water that contained lead amounts less than 20 parts per billion (ppb) was considered acceptable. Currently, all drinking water is considered acceptable at less than 5 ppb.
 
MSD's Columbia Campus had 3 ice makers and 1 sink with lead levels at or above 5 ppb. We have discontinued the use of those outlets until remedial action has been taken.
 
The attachment shared here contains details of these tests and further information regarding lead in drinking water.
 
The Frederick Campus will have its drinking water tested prior to July 1, 2021.
 
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at kevin.strachan@msd.edu or Ann Miller, MSD Chief Operating Officer, at ann.miller@msd.edu.
 
MSD wishes students, families, and staff a happy and safe summer.
 
Sincerely,
 
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
 
Ann Miller
Ann Miller
Chief Financial Officer &
Chief Operating Officer
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
Dawniela Halischak
Dawniela Halischak
Columbia Campus Principal
Kevin Strachan
Kevin Strachan
Frederick Campus Principal