From the Leadership Team

June 17, 2022: End of Year Reflections
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Today concludes the 2021-2022 academic year. Time seems to move more quickly these days. The end of the year is the perfect time to review the takeaways, challenges, and highlights and reflect on all the lessons we learned as we look forward to the future. This is also a time of celebration of growth and transformation.
 
This year’s theme, “Forward Together”, was a reminder that regardless of the obstacles that may come our way, we needed to continue to move forward together. As a community, we embraced this year’s unique challenges and pursued progress together. Despite the challenges, I see this school year as a success.
 
Our end-of-year celebrations and events were all the sweeter because, for many, we were together again, in person. There is a lot to be proud of and I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your support, patience, and spirit throughout the year. Thank you to our families for believing in MSD and entrusting us with your children. Special thanks to our parent organizations for their support this year, especially with our Staff Appreciation Week.
 
From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful for our dedicated and compassionate teachers and staff, who have worked tirelessly in educating and nurturing our students. Each of you has gone above and beyond as we addressed our students' academic and social-emotional needs while coping with the pandemic. It does not matter what job title you have; all of you were an important part of this school year. The MSD community has genuinely shown that together, we can move forward and strive for more.
 
This school year, we served 447 students from birth to 21 years old. In June, we graduated 19 seniors who are now writing the next chapter of their lives. We launched the Orioles Career Academy, an 18 to 21 program designed to prepare students for postsecondary employment. This fall, eight students will join the inaugural Orioles Career Academy class. We also celebrated academic success with field days, class trips, award programs, and end-of-year celebrations and promotions. This week, 21 students celebrated their promotion from pre-kindergarten, 30 from fifth grade, and 44 from eighth grade.
 
Our students were challenged in the classrooms and engaged in extracurricular activities. MSD was well represented in local, state, and national competitions. In the annual National Literary Competition, sophomore Kaylieah Fuller was selected as the grand prize winner for the ASL competition, recognizing her as the best across all categories. Columbia campus’ fifth grade class won the Inaugural Harriet Tubman 2022 Women’s History Month Women of Courage video contest. Sixteen Frederick campus elementary students placed or received honorable mentions at the annual Youth De’VIA competition. Our Academic Bowl team advanced to the national competition this year, and MSD had four Battle of the Books teams. Frederick campus fifth-grader Nikita Dzougoutov earned the title of co-champion in the National Spelling Bee after 18 incredible rounds. Our math team had a strong performance this year with eighth-grader Josiah Lockhart earning second place in the national competition.
 
Middle and high school students could actively engage in organizations and clubs in person and virtually this year. A new medical club was introduced to our students. The chess club participated in a virtual national tournament this year. Our robotics club continued to grow interest in the young minds of our students and they participated in local and national competitions as well. MSD’s Deaf Youth Latinx Club and Junior Black Deaf Advocates Chapter hosted events to raise awareness throughout the year. The Faupel Performing Arts Club staged three productions this year. We had students independently sign up to compete in trivia cups and the debate bowl.
 
Student-athletes returned to competition and played a full schedule again, earning several team and individual accolades and honors. Our varsity volleyball team was named Division I Team of the Year, and our cheer squad won two national championships. Three of our student-athletes won the silver medal in the Special Olympics State Basketball Tournament.
 
Our dorms opened their doors again to residential students, providing our students with a home-away-from-home experience.
 
Our staff and alumni continue to inspire us with personal and professional endeavors. Aside from their commitment to professional development and extracurricular activities, our staff and alumni starred in a community play, climbed Mount Denali, and competed in Brazil for the Deaflympics, to name a few.
 
Nearly a year ago, Netflix released Audible, a documentary short featuring MSD’s 2019 high school football team and executive produced by MSD alumnus Nyle DiMarco. We celebrated Audible’s run at the Academy Awards as one of the best documentary short subject category nominees.
 
With the end of the school year, the doors to the Veditz Building on Frederick campus will soon close, and renovations for a state-of-the-art career and technical education center will begin. A lot of thought and planning has gone into the design of this new building. We look forward to the day we can utilize the new space and resources to bring our CTE program to the next level.
 
The accomplishments of our students, staff, and alumni this year are many. Half the battle, Woody Allen said, is showing up. In the face of a difficult year, we put one foot in front of the other and we showed up. That is the most important accomplishment and is to be celebrated.
 
Planning for the 2022-2023 school year began a few months ago and will continue throughout the summer. We are very excited about the new school year opportunities as we continue to identify programs, resources, and staff that rise to the challenge of providing MSD students with the educational programs and services they need to excel. Embedded in our planning is our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Ann Miller and I will continue to co-lead until our Board of Trustees hires a new superintendent. The process of resuming the search is underway.
 
In Fall 2022, MSD will also proudly celebrate Columbia campus’s golden anniversary. To mark this special milestone, the 50th Anniversary Committee is planning a variety of events for our students, staff, alumni, and community members. The year-long celebration shall commence on the first day of school. More information about the jubilee celebration can be found on our website at www.msd.edu/cc50/.
 
A few reminders as we head into the summer months:
  • The 2022-2023 school calendar is available on our website at www.msd.edu/calendar/.  
  • Online enrollment for the next school year is open. Please register your child(ren) at your earliest convenience via PowerSchool's Parent Portal: https://msd.powerschool.com/public/. If you do not have your login information or need assistance with registration, please contact our PowerSchool Administrator at [email protected].
  • Medical forms are available at the end of the online registration process or via our website. All completed medical forms should be sent to your campus’ Student Health Center at [email protected] or [email protected].
  • We are actively recruiting to fill open positions and encourage you to share MSD’s available opportunities with anyone you think may be a good fit. To learn more about these exciting new job openings and apply, visit www.msd.edu/jobopenings/.
Please enjoy your summer and carve out time for self-care. Encourage your children to play outside and spend less time on technology. Encourage them to read books, play board games, visit museums, and more. 
 
I wish you a wonderful and safe summer.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
June 7, 2022: Modifications to End of Year Events
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
COVID cases on our campuses and around the state have continued to rise over the last few weeks. Over the weekend, we had ten positive cases reported to MSD, with five cases on each campus. The increase in reported positive cases require a change in our COVID-19 strategy. Moving forward, any time a local health department identifies a cohort or a school outbreak, we will communicate which department the outbreak is in.
 
On that note, we recently became aware that an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 was present at the Columbia Campus. With that, the Howard County Health Department has identified the recent development of positive cases on Columbia Campus as a cohort outbreak within both the elementary and middle school departments. An outbreak is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among students/teachers/staff in a specified group (cohort) within a 14-day period, and who are epidemiologically linked in the school setting, but not household contacts.
 
Following new guidance from the Howard County Health Department, all students and staff identified in a cohort outbreak are strongly encouraged to remain masked at all times while indoors, except when eating or drinking. Masks are available for those who need one. The health department also recommends additional mitigation strategies which include physical distancing and cohorting. Cohorting is the practice of keeping people together in a small group and having each group stay together throughout the day, while minimizing contact between cohorts.
 
We must also take in consideration advice from health experts when planning our end-of-year celebrations and large gatherings. With that said, there will be modifications and restrictions in place for these events to allow for these celebrations to continue safely, whether in-person or virtually. We appreciate your support and understanding as the health and safety of our students and staff is paramount.
 
Any student or staff who has been identified as a member of the cohort has received notification and has been strongly encouraged to get tested. Testing is available at many local pharmacies. To find a testing site near you, visit covidlink.maryland.gov or coronavirus.maryland.gov.
 
We will continue to keep you informed if there are any new developments. Thank you for your support and effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to promote the health and safety of our community.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
June 6, 2022: Memorial Service for Andre Burke
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Andre Burke, a beloved colleague and friend, passed away on May 24. Andre was a valuable MSD employee, an active community member, and a proud MSD alumnus of the class of 1994.
 
As per the family's wishes, Andre's memorial service will be held on Friday, June 10, 2022, at the Five Rivers Church in Elkton, Md. The family will be receiving guests at the viewing from 9:00 a.m. to 10:45 a.m., and the service will follow at 11:00 a.m. 
 
Andre Burke
 
Employees who wish to be present at Andre's memorial service may take time off to attend and are encouraged to contact their direct supervisor to let them know as soon as possible. Students who wish to attend the service may be excused from school. You may wish to discuss with your students and colleagues ways they can remember Andre and extend their sympathy individually or as a group to Andre's family.
 
Our hearts go out to Andre's family and friends at this difficult time. Please keep them in your thoughts. Andre will forever be a part of our MSD community.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
May 27, 2022: Renca Dunn—2022 Commencement Speaker
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
The Class of 2022 was asked to select an individual who, in front of families, friends, faculty and staff, will deliver an uplifting commencement address to mark the close of their high school chapter. It is an honor to announce that Renca Dunn has graciously accepted the invitation to address the graduating seniors at the MSD Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 3, 2022, at the Benson Gym.
 
Renca Dunn
Photo credit: Tiffany Saccente/TMGSfotography 
 
Born in Hawaii and raised on the West coast, Renca believes it is not where you go but who you meet that shapes who you are. Growing up, Renca lived in nine states, attended seven schools, and has moved over thirty times in her life. She has experienced living in different-sized homes, on a farm, in a busy city, and even on a commercial fishing boat.
 
Renca attended Gallaudet University, where she earned three bachelor's degrees: English, Education, and Communication Studies. She went to American University, where she received her master's degree in International Communication, specializing in Cross-Culture and Education. After graduating, she joined Youth With A Mission, a missionary organization in Washington, D.C., which led to her move to Iowa for a job opportunity with Deaf Missions. In 2020, Renca began a new chapter in her life as a doctoral student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is going into her third year studying in the Interpersonal, Family, and Health Communication field.
 
Renca is also a Deaf Women United board member, a reporter for The Daily Moth, a co-cheer coach, and a content creator for her personal platform known as ReallyRenca. She loves traveling, hiking, camping, and eating spicy foods. Renca believes that a morning is off to a good start when there is a latte in her hand.
 
We look forward to meeting and learning from Renca Dunn; we know she will deliver an inspiring commencement address to all of us. 
 
More information about the commencement ceremony for the seniors and their families will be shared with the community shortly.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
May 25, 2022: Recent Acts of Violence
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Our hearts are heavy today with the loss of a beloved colleague. Our community and the country are also reeling from the news of the racist shooting attack that killed ten people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and then with the shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers. I am distraught for the families and community members impacted by these harrowing tragedies. It grieves me to find ourselves hurting once again trying to process these senseless acts of violence. Terrorism and violence must end, and change must happen.
 
As hard as these times are for both children and adults, it is important to keep communication open. Talking to your child about acts of violence and terror is never easy, but it is necessary, especially if they are feeling confused, frustrated, or afraid about these recent events. These conversations can help your child recognize their fears and feel safe by reestablishing a sense of normalcy and security.
 
Here are some tips that can help when talking to your child:
  • Validate their feelings.
  • Be clear, direct, and factual.
  • Encourage questions and don't worry if you can't answer them.
  • Try to be calm but don't hide your emotions.
  • Keep the conversation open.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provides resources for parents and teachers in both English and Spanish to guide your conversation about violence with your child. These resources can be found here:
We have provided staff with specific resources about how to talk about a national crisis with students and MSD's mental health team stands ready to support all students. Families and staff members are also encouraged to reach out to members of the mental health team with any questions or concerns. Joseph Smail, MSD's director of mental health and behavioral support services, is also available at [email protected] to consult and provide support.
 
Our students' and staff's safety, security, and well-being continue to be our top priority. We remain vigilant and regularly review MSD's protocols to ensure our campuses are prepared during any emergency situations. We must remember that the number one prevention measure is to make a report if you know anything, no matter how little it seems to be or if you assume it means nothing.
 
As vulnerable as we may be with all of the many happenings in this world, we need to continue to move forward together with compassion, patience, and support.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
May 24, 2022: The Passing of Andre Burke
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
With great sadness and a heavy heart, we inform you of the passing of Andre Burke. Andre passed away earlier today, on May 24. He was a valuable MSD employee and a proud MSD alumnus of the class of 1994.
 
Andre has worked on the Frederick campus for seven years. He worked in our after-school program in the classroom as a teacher aide, and as an enhanced service aide this school year. Andre was also an active community member, remembered by many for his radiant smile and friendliness. He was more than a colleague to us; he was a good friend to us all.
 
Andre Burke
 
Jessica Schulte, Andre's longtime partner, also works at MSD. The family appreciates the outpouring show of support from the community and asks for privacy at this time. Please keep Andre's family in your thoughts as they go through this difficult time.
 
Andre's passing has a significant impact on our school community. MSD will not be the same without him. Our mental health team stands by, ready to support our students and staff.
 
We will share with you the details regarding the memorial service as we hear more details from Andre's family.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
May 23, 2022: Health and Safety Update
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Over the last several months, we have enjoyed a sense of normalcy with the return to in-person programs and events. As we are nearing the end of the school year, we must remain vigilant in our efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID.
 
COVID cases on our campuses and around the state have begun to rise over the last few weeks. These infections are primarily due to the omicron subvariants coupled with waning immunity and the lifting of the mask requirement, making the virus highly transmissible.
 
Face coverings, proper sanitization, and physical distancing have proven to be effective mitigation strategies. As a precautionary measure, we strongly encourage everyone to wear a mask when in school buildings on MSD campuses.
 
We have monitored metrics in our home counties, school, and across the state. The increase in reported positive cases requires a change in our COVID-19 strategy. Our end-of-year celebrations and large gatherings shall remain in-person as planned. With that said, some restrictions will now remain in effect until the 2021-2022 academic year has concluded.
 
Due to the nature of upcoming events and the number of people attending, masks are required for the following events scheduled during the next two weeks:
  • High School Sports Awards Ceremony
  • Frederick Campus Elementary School Play
  • Honors and Awards Ceremony
  • High School Commencement
We will communicate more information on our health and safety guidelines for each event for the remainder of the school year as the time comes. Please understand that decisions on restrictions may change as we continue to monitor data and health metrics on our campuses and across the state to inform our decisions.
 
Our priority is the health and safety of our community. We also recognize the importance of hosting these celebrations and special events in person.
 
Let's finish the school year strong together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
March 2, 2022: Masking and Health & Safety Updates
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
I write this letter with optimism that we are rounding the corner of this pandemic. Nearly two years ago, we closed our schools with no idea of what would come. Since then, we have stood together, navigating the highs and lows of distance learning and hybrid learning. This year, we returned to campus for in-person learning and together we did our best to rebound back to some aspects of pre-pandemic normalcy.
 
In light of recent improving health metrics, the Maryland State Board of Education has rescinded its statewide mask mandate in school buildings and voted to allow local schools to decide at their discretion whether to require masks in their school buildings.
 
We have reviewed the Maryland Department of Health metrics for Maryland. Both Frederick and Howard counties now meet the 80 percent threshold for vaccinations as required by the Maryland State Department of Education's off ramp option one guidance for making changes to mask policies.
 
We have reviewed our own metrics on both campuses. When the Omicron variant was at its peak, we had 91 positive cases reported to MSD and 34 students in quarantine from Dec. 18, 2021 to Jan. 21, 2022. From Feb. 8 to Feb. 28, we had five positive cases reported to MSD and a total of three students in quarantine.
 
We have carefully reviewed our mask policy for all ages and in all areas of student and staff life on both campuses, and we believe it is time for our own masking policy to change.
 
Effective Monday, March 7, the indoor masking requirement in school buildings on MSD campuses is no longer required. Any student, staff, or visitor may choose to wear a mask at school, with the expectation that others' choices will be respected. Our main offices will continue to have additional masks available if needed.
 
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks are still required in healthcare settings. Any student, staff, or visitor must wear a mask when visiting MSD's student health center.
 
Health professionals still recommend face coverings as an effective mitigation strategy. MSD encourages mask use as a precautionary measure; however, families and staff are empowered to make decisions for themselves and their families. As face coverings are optional in our school buildings, other mitigation measures shall remain in place, including increased sanitization, physical distancing, and improved ventilation with open windows and air purifiers in classrooms, offices, residence halls, and common areas.
 
Masks on School Buses
On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its federal order and will no longer require that people wear masks on buses. Local school systems may choose to require that students wear masks on school buses or vans. Because our students come from all over the state, masking requirements on school buses may vary by county.
 
Contact Tracing, Quarantine, and Reporting Positive Cases
As masks are now optional in our school buildings, contact tracing is no longer feasible. Individuals who test positive are still required to report their positive cases to the school as soon as possible. Our current quarantine guidelines for those with a positive COVID-19 test result shall remain in effect until further notice. There are no changes to instructional supports available for students in quarantine.
 
Symptom Screening
At this time, students, staff, and visitors will not be required to have their body temperatures checked upon arrival. Students will continue to be observed throughout the day for any signs of COVID-19-like symptoms. As a reminder, all students and staff should remain at home when experiencing any possible symptoms of COVID-19 no matter how mild it is.
 
Student Assemblies & Large Staff Meetings
Student assemblies and large staff meetings may resume in-person with social distancing maintained to the greatest extent possible.

Spectators at Home Athletic Contests & Extracurricular Activities 
Effective Monday, March 7, spectators will be welcomed back to home athletic contests and extracurricular activities on MSD campuses at full capacity.
 
Please note that these changes take effect Monday, March 7. Masks are still required in our school buildings for the remainder of this week.
 
We will continue to monitor data and health metrics in our school and across the state to inform our decisions. While there may be some reservations about this change, I must emphasize the importance of respecting and valuing the personal decisions of others. Families, students, and staff should feel confident to make the choice that is right for them regarding their mask use, and they should be supported in their choice of continuing to mask or not.
 
Thank you for your continued partnership and support as we work together through this transition while maintaining a safe learning and working environment for our students and staff.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
February 26, 2022: Update on MSD's Mask Policy
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
With the recent improvement of current health metrics across the state, schools are re-evaluating changes to their mask-wearing policies in school buildings.
 
The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has several off-ramp options for making changes to mask policies. Changes to our policy are forthcoming and at this time will be based on the MSDE off-ramp option one, which requires at least 80 percent of the county population to be fully vaccinated, as reported by the Maryland Department of Health. Both Frederick and Howard counties now meet the 80 percent threshold.
 
At its Feb. 22 meeting, the Maryland State Board of Education voted to rescind their statewide mask mandate in school buildings and to allow local schools to adopt their own face covering policies. The legislative committee voted to approve the rescinding on Friday, Feb. 25.
 
Because MSD is unique in its service to students from infancy to 21 years old from all over the state on two campuses, with some of our students living in residential halls during the school week, we are re-evaluating our mask policy and protocols in all aspects of student life. Changes to our mask-wearing policy impacts a number of areas and additional information will be shared with our students, staff, families, and community as soon as possible. Until these changes are communicated, masks are still required in our school buildings.
 
We recognize that there are differing perspectives on whether mask mandates should remain in place. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keeping our school safe and open for in-person learning as we take another step toward normalcy.
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
February 10, 2022: Community Update
 
Dear MSD Community:
 
Happy Lunar New Year! This is the Year of the Tiger, and I wish the blessings of a new season to all those celebrating.
 
February is Black History Month. The month of February each year is designated to recognize and honor the achievements and contributions of the Black community and to also celebrate the beauty, strength, and excellence of Black Americans.
 
I am proud of how active MSD's Junior Black Deaf Advocates are in raising awareness and how committed our students and their sponsors are in making positive changes. I look to them for their continued leadership of those who represent a world of cultures, talents, and values.
 
Black History Month is another reminder that equity must be intertwined in everything we do and that our work of listening and learning is never done. The daily interactions and relationships made in our classrooms and offices with one another often bring fundamental change. Conversations with people of all races and cultures is where we truly learn empathy. And we must continue to listen and learn in these conversations together.
 
Audible Nominated for an Academy Award
I am very excited to share with you that Audible is an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Short Subject.
 
Streaming worldwide on Netflix, Audible is directed by Matt Ogens and executive produced by Nyle DiMarco, an MSD alumnus class of 2007. Nyle's reality show wins gave him and our community a greater platform. We are now able to explore more aspects of the Deaf experience with creative projects such as Audible, Deaf U, and CODA.

While this is an exciting time for our school, we recognize and celebrate the presence of the Deaf experience in the Academy Awards this year. Not only was Audible nominated for an Oscar, Troy Kotsur, a Deaf actor, was also nominated for best supporting actor for his role as 'Frank' in CODA. The film CODA also received a nomination for Best Picture.
 
In addition to the Oscar nominations, the signing community has also been featured in national news as of late. The Super Bowl LVI this weekend will feature deaf performers Warren "Wawa" Snipe and Sean Forbes during the Halftime Show. Sandra Mae Frank, a deaf actress from New Amsterdam, will also join the ASL performances, with the pregame signing of the national anthem and "America the Beautiful." Recognized nationally on a historical trip to the state championship game, captains of California School for the Deaf, Riverside's football team will be at center field for the pregame coin toss.
 
Representation matters, and we are incredibly proud to be a part of such an important milestone for the Deaf community. MSD is at the epicenter of the largest Deaf community in the world in a highly diverse Washington Metropolitan Area. While we are proud to share many stories from our community's perspective, we look forward to the next wave of opportunities for countless individuals and communities worldwide that develop from this current experience.
 
Super Bowl LVI will air on NBC this Sunday, Feb. 13 at 6:00 p.m. and the Academy Awards will air on ABC at 8:00 p.m. EST on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
 
COVID-19 Dashboard
We would like to share MSD's school data on student and staff positive COVID-19 cases and student quarantine. The data collected is broken down into three periods:
 
Nov. 6, 2021 through Dec. 17, 2021:
      • Total COVID-19 positive cases reported to MSD: 16
      • Total Students Quarantined: 41
Dec. 18, 2021 through Jan. 21, 2022:
      • Total COVID-19 positive cases reported to MSD: 91
      • Total Students Quarantined: 34
Jan. 22, 2022 through Feb. 7, 2022:
      • Total COVID-19 positive cases reported to MSD: 4
      • Total Students Quarantined: 1
With safety measures in place and continued monitoring of local and statewide health conditions, we have noticed a decline in recent numbers. We appreciate your continued efforts in helping our community stay safe as our ultimate goal is to see a steady decrease in positive cases. MSD will continue to utilize available resources and multi-layered mitigation strategies to align with federal and state requirements and expectations of keeping schools open for in-person learning.
 
Revised Reopening Guide for the Spring 2022 Semester
I am pleased to share MSD's Spring 2022 Reopening Guide. This guide provides an overview of our multi-layered health and safety mitigation strategies, a safe return to in-person instruction for all students, and the resources dedicated to health and safety equity. The guide also summarizes our contingency plans should health conditions warrant a shift to a temporary instructional model. The Spring 2022 Reopening Guide is posted on our website at www.msd.edu/reopening/
 
Feedback and input from our parents/guardians, families, students, staff, and stakeholders help inform our planning. As always, we welcome your feedback on our Reopening Guide anytime throughout the year. On our reopening webpage, you will find a link to submit a form with your feedback. 
 
Decision on the 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 released an Interim K-12 School and Child Care COVID-19 Isolation and Quarantine Guidance in January. MSD reviewed these guidelines and decided that our current guidelines will remain in effect until further notice.
 
KN95 Masks for MSD Students and Staff
Appropriate masking practices are an important mitigating strategy to prevent the spread of COVID-19. MSD students and staff will have N95 and KN95 masks available to them based on the ability to procure applicable amounts and sizes from vendors and local health departments. Size-permitting, packets of two. masks per person will be distributed in the coming days. While these masks are not washable, they can be reused for an extended period; however, the CDC recommends that they be worn no more than five times. Additional disposable face masks are available if needed for students, staff, and visitors.
 
Extracurricular Activity Waiver of Liability Agreement
MSD recognizes the importance of student participation in extracurricular activities, interscholastic athletics, and events. COVID-19 mitigation strategies are continuously reviewed, updated, and implemented in an effort to protect those participating in these optional, extracurricular activities. For the safety of all involved, an Extracurricular Activity Waiver of Liability Agreement has been developed for parent/guardian review and signature to allow for their child(ren) to participate in these elective activities and events.
 
This form will be distributed to those actively involved in extracurricular activities, athletics, and events. Parents/guardian review and signature will be required for participation for the remainder of this school year. This form will be updated on an annual basis as needed and will be included in the summer registration packet for all families.
 
Field Trips
Field Trips may continue.
 
Spectators at Home Athletic Contests
Effective Monday, Feb. 7, spectators will be welcomed back to home athletic contests on MSD campuses, at 25 percent capacity, for all home athletic contests. All spectators must continue to wear masks properly indoors at all times. All high school sports home games in the Benson Gym will continue to be available via live-streaming at www.youtube.com/MSDAthletics
 
School Calendar Adjustments
  • School Year Extended: At this time, five school days have been added to the end of the school calendar to make up required instructional time from when school was closed due to inclement weather. The last day of school is scheduled for Friday, June 17 for all students. Should we experience any additional inclement weather or emergency school closings, this date may be extended and we will update the community with any further calendar modifications.
  • Interim and End of Quarter Dates: Due to the extension of the school year, the 3rd and 4th quarter interim and end dates have been modified.
      • March 2, 2022: Third Quarter Interim
      • April 1, 2022: Third Quarter Ends
      • May 11, 2022: Fourth Quarter Interim
      • June 17, 2022: Fourth Quarter Ends/Last Day of School
May we continue to work together on finishing the school year as strong as we started. We are grateful for the community's support in ensuring we remain a safe school community where our students can receive high-quality education in person. 
 
Forward Together.
 
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Interim Chief Educational Programs Officer
 
Video in ASL | Watch ASL Video
 
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
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 [email protected]
 
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 [email protected], 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 [email protected] or Ann Miller, MSD Chief Operating Officer, at [email protected].
 
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 [email protected] or Ann Miller, MSD Chief Operating Officer, at [email protected].
 
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