Latest Communications

January 8, 2021: Community Announcement
Dear MSD Community:
COVID-19 metrics in the state continue to rise at an alarming rate. During the summer of 2020 the infection rate was approximately 2.7%. Two months ago the number had risen to 5.7%. The state average is now 9.31% ... Howard County is 7.6% and Frederick is 10.89%. With these numbers trending upwards, experts believe that we are currently in the worst weeks of the pandemic.
Given the current metrics across the state, Maryland School for the Deaf will not open on January 19, 2021, as previously announced. We will continue to monitor the status of this ongoing situation through the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and in compliance with directions from Governor Larry Hogan and Dr. Karen Salmon (Maryland State Superintendent of Schools). We are looking to bring the first small group of students to campus in mid-February. That targeted date is currently February 16, 2021, for students and February 8, 2021, for staff, to prepare classrooms.
This postponement applies to athletics as well. Practices for student athletes will be conducted virtually. We will determine soon whether or not there will be any opportunity for participating in what remains of the winter sports season.
MSD is providing limited Audiology support on both campuses. And some assessments will be offered on both campuses, as well. Staff are currently coordinating schedules and reaching out to families. MSD will continue to provide site visits for some struggling students. Teachers who wish to work on campus can do so following all established safety protocols.
These are very hard times for our nation and for our world. It is exhausting and draining to have been in crisis for what will soon be one year. For the time being we must do all we can to continue to teach and learn and connect and improve through Distance Learning. And we must remain optimistic that with more and more vaccinations and the spring months ahead, better days will be with us soon.
Stay safe, all, and stay well.
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Maryland School for the Deaf
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
November 20, 2020: Family Survey & Updates
Dear MSD Families:
I hope your child's second quarter is off to a good start. This letter is to provide updates and to request for your feedback on the increased live instruction that we began halfway through the first quarter.
Survey: Please take the time to share your feedback with us to help us continue to improve distance learning for all students. As MSD continues to plan its reopening, we wish to stress that families will still have the option to decide for their child as to whether they wish for their child to return to campus for in-person learning or continue distance learning for the rest of this school year. In this survey, we need to know if you plan to send your child to school if we are to reopen as planned. This will help us plan our reopening accordingly. Please complete the survey by Friday, December 4th. Click here to complete survey. 
Attendance: Your child's attendance to school is very important. If your child is unable to attend a class, please communicate with us. This update to the attendance policy is effective on Monday, November 30th.
Students are expected to be on time for class. Any student arriving after the start of class and within the first 20 minutes will be marked as tardy. After 20 minutes, any student arriving late to class is marked as absent. Students missing class or arriving late due to doctor appointments or the like will be marked as an excused absence/tardy as long as they have a note.
If there are any concerns regarding your child's attendance due to challenges experienced by connectivity issues, hardship, or other legitimate concerns, please contact your child's assistant principal to discuss how we may be able to support you and your child during this time.
Submission of Assignments for Middle School and High School Students (with exception for some students): Now that we are into the second quarter, we expect students to submit their assignments on time. If additional time is needed to complete an assignment, students will be given a one week grace period from the original due date in which to finish and submit their work without penalty. Verified absences will still fall under the current attendance guidelines so please contact your child's teacher if your child is struggling and needs additional support.
As mentioned above, the submission of late assignments will be given a one week grace period without penalty. An assignment turned in during the second week after its due date will receive an 11% deduction, the third week 20%, and then after that there will be a 30% reduction. Students are still able to submit work up to 4.5 weeks after the end of the quarter to receive credit, but the late work will be deducted according to the aforementioned scale. This policy is also effective on Monday, November 30th.
We hope this will encourage your child to submit assignments on time in order to maximize learning in real time and keep up with their learning. As always, please communicate with us if your child needs additional time.
Inclement Weather: If there is inclement weather while we are in distance learning, we will still have classes as scheduled.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Consent: Please complete the MSD's Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Consent for Group Instruction for Students with IEPs form by Friday, December 4th.
Online Registration & Medical Forms: Please complete your child's online registration if you have not done so by Friday, December 4th. We must have your child's registration before your child can return to campus.
  • Medical related forms must be submitted to the Student Health Center before your child may return to campus. It is strongly recommended to send the forms to MSD as soon as possible so your child will have a smooth transition back to school when MSD reopens.
  • We should have your child's immunization records by now. If we have not received the updated records, you will receive a letter informing you that your child cannot attend school until the record is updated.
Parent and Family Digital Guide: The United States Department of Education has developed a guide for families for distance learning. "This 'Parent and Family Digital Learning Guide' will inform you, as a parent or caregiver, as you monitor your child's progress as your child accesses and uses technology for learning. This guide aims to help all parents and caregivers, including those who have limited experience with digital tools, those who are expert with these tools, and anywhere in between. Each section starts with foundational pieces and builds from there." Click here to access this guide.
Next week is a short week with our fall break. This is a great time to unplug from technology and to recharge. We had a very busy fall season together and we would like to take the time to tell you how grateful we are to be a part of the MSD community. Together, we are a strong community.
Enjoy the long weekend with your loved ones.
Standing Together.
Dawniela Patterson
Columbia Campus Principal
Jennifer Yost Ortiz
Frederick Campus Interim Principal & Dean of Student Affairs
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
November 12, 2020: A correction to yesterday's announcement
Dear MSD Community:
A correction to yesterday's announcement:
Because the COVID-19 infection rate is now above 5% in Maryland, Governor Larry Hogan announced tightened restrictions on the state. The state of Maryland did not, however, return to Phase One of the Roadmap to Recovery plan. It was Baltimore City that returned to Phase One. There was some confusion in the media which became my error. I apologize for sending out incorrect information.
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Note: The Spanish Translation is available below in our November 11 communication.
November 11, 2020: Phase One of the Roadmap to Recovery -- Changes for MSD
Dear MSD Community:

Yesterday Governor Larry Hogan announced that in Maryland the COVID infection rate is now over 5%. So, beginning today at 5:00pm, Maryland is returning to Phase One of the state's Roadmap to Recovery which impacts many aspects of our lives.
I met with my reopening team today to review what this means for MSD. Here are the immediate decisions we have made:
Tomorrow we were scheduled to welcome those teachers and classroom personnel who wished to work on campus in their classrooms and offices. Now that is being revisited according to the Governor's announcement and guidance for "essential personnel" only to be on site. We will communicate the specific details about who is considered "essential" in the next few days.
For employees who are currently working on campus, your supervisor will soon communicate with you regarding what changes this may mean for you. Until that occurs, you are expected to report to work as usual.
We were hopeful to bring the first group of students on campus at the start of December. That date is now postponed to January 19, 2021.
Until students return to campus for in-person instruction, we will be working on plans to provide site visits for specific students and student groups as long as it is safe to do so.
We are not able to bring high school athletes on campus for the conditioning and practice necessary for their safe participation in their chosen sports prior to January. We are uncertain at this time if we can participate in the winter sports season.
The mission of MSD has not changed. Every one of us at MSD is here for the education, wellbeing and growth of our children. Managing that safety in this pandemic is a challenge. With every change many new questions arise. As ever, I welcome your questions, your concerns, and your wisdom.
So please keep in touch, and we will do the same. We will continue to review our decisions, to make adjustments when necessary, and to communicate openly and regularly regarding MSD's plans for reopening.
Stay safe and stay well.
Kevin Strachan
Interim Superintendent
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
October 9, 2020: Attendance, Grading, and Increase in Live Instruction
Hello Families,
A couple of weeks ago, interim superintendent Kevin Strachan mentioned in his newsletter that we will be increasing live instruction for students. The decision to increase live instruction was based on feedback that we have received and updated recommendations from the state. We are now ready to share details about this change.
Based on your feedback to the recent surveys about distance learning and state requirements, we are making adjustments to our K-12 program. Our Family Ed program will continue to meet student and family needs following their current schedule with no changes.
Beginning October 13th, the online work and modules that K-12 students have primarily used for instruction will change. Each day students will have live instruction on new content. Seesaw and Google Classroom will be used to post and submit student work, make general announcements, provide the weekly schedule, and provide follow-up to instruction. The change in the school schedule is resulting in some related services being moved or rescheduled. If your child is impacted by these changes, you will be contacted by your service provider to adjust the appointment.
Due to the changes in distance learning, we are updating our attendance policy to align with the new model we are following. This policy does not impact our Family Ed program as they will continue to meet student and family needs following their current schedule with no changes.
  • Students are to attend all live classes everyday.
  • Students should be on time for their classes.
  • Students are expected to remain in their live virtual class for the entire time.
  • If a student does not show up to their virtual class, they will be marked absent.
  • Contact your department secretary, just as you would if we were in person, to let them know about your child's absence.
  • Attendance will be recorded on a daily basis through PowerSchool.
We understand that at times there are technical issues that prevent a student from logging into their class on time. Please email both the teacher and the department secretary ASAP to alert them to this issue. If your child is experiencing freezing or lagging when using Zoom or Google Meet, try the following tips to improve video quality: English | Spanish
Absences will be marked excused or unexcused just as when we are in person. You can find the list of what qualifies as an excused absence in our handbook on our website at We will be handling issues of technical difficulties on a case-by-case basis.
If this new schedule poses a unique challenge for your child, please contact us with the special circumstances that are impacting your child's attendance to all of their classes. Depending on the situation, this may result in including Charlene Ward-Marr, our Director of IEP Services, so a determination can be made as to whether there needs to be formal documentation in your child's IDLP.

We understand it may take some time for students and families to adjust to this new schedule and attendance policy. With that in mind, there will be a grace period during the first week of this change from October 13-16. While this may be stressful for some families, we assure you that we will continue to work with you.
With the change from modules to live instruction, we are also making changes in how instruction is recorded and posted in your student's classroom. Our teachers will be recording their direct instruction during their live class. Direct instruction will be approximately 10-15 minutes, and the recording will not show any students. Teachers will let students know when they begin recording and when they stop. The recording will then be posted to your child's classroom (Seesaw or Google Classroom) by the end of the day.
Please review MSD's Guide to Virtual Classroom Recordings, Student Privacy and Security. Please be sure to review this with your child. Also attached is the MSD's Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Consent for Group Instruction for Students with IEPs form. Please complete the form and return this to Lauralynn Helms-Salit at
Click on the link to download the MSD's Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Consent for Group Instruction for Students with IEPs form:  View the form in English | View the form in Spanish
We also want to take this time to review our distance learning grading policy with you. Student learning will be measured through class assignments including projects, presentations, readings, etc. and when appropriate through face-to-face assessments and conversations.
Students will be graded following MSD's grading policy as printed in the MSD Handbook with two modifications. First, grading categories and weights will be 60% for assessment and 40% for classwork/homework. Secondly, students will have the opportunity to make up any and all missing work 4.5 weeks after the end of a quarter. After that period of time, any and all missing work's zero (0) in the gradebook will become permanent and the student's grade will be finalized. If needed, special consideration for an extension beyond the 4.5 weeks can be requested of the campus principal in writing.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us or your child's assistant principal at any time. As we go through this change, we welcome your feedback anytime.
Dawniela Patterson, Columbia Campus Principal
Jennifer Yost Ortiz, Frederick Campus Interim Principal and Dean of Student Affairs
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
September 3, 2020: Jennifer Yost Ortiz -- Interim Frederick Campus Principal
Dear MSD Community:
Tomorrow, September 4, 2020, James E. Tucker retires. For the last 28 years he served our community and worked hard to make Maryland School for the Deaf the flagship school that it is today. He has stated publicly a few times, "I hope I gave my best ... I hope I gave my all." For the last decade I have worked very closely with him. And I know the answer to that. Yes, sir, you gave it your all. I respect that, and I thank you for it.
Between Superintendent Tucker and MSD's next superintendent, I will be a bridge, serving you and serving this school that I love to the best of my ability.
In this year where I will serve as Interim Superintendent, Jennifer Yost Ortiz will fill my role as Frederick campus principal. Jennifer has worked at MSD for nine years, serving for five years as principal of Columbia campus and for four years as Frederick's Dean of Student Affairs. Some duties of the principal and some duties of the Dean of Student Affairs will, for the year, be given to individuals on our leadership team. And when we have hired a new superintendent, Jenn and I will return to our positions. Thank you, Jenn, for accepting this responsibility.
This school year we face many challenges. In the last 152 years MSD has seen a lot ... wars, fight for rights, social unrest, economic hardship and even a pandemic. Generations of MSD students and families and staff have stood together. Now in year 153, we will do the same.

Stay well. And have a good holiday weekend.
Kevin Strachan
Frederick Campus Principal
Letter in ASL | Watch ASL Video
PDF in Spanish | Traducción al Español
August 30, 2020: Welcome Back to School Year 2020-21!
Dear Students and Families:
Welcome back! We had hoped that our return to school would also be a return to campus, but to ensure the safety of students, families, and staff, we will begin our 153rd school year together fully virtual.
We are excited to announce the 2020-2021 school year theme: "Standing Together".
Standing Together
Standing Together
The goals we set and the challenges we face as a community become more manageable when we are standing together. What we are working toward is greater than any one of us. We can do this. We are in this together. We are standing together. While we are not all gathered as we would be, we are still working together toward a common goal: to have the best school year yet for our students, families, and colleagues. Let's make our journey together in creating a better, stronger tomorrow.
Distance Learning
We are in stage one of our recovery plan. We have worked hard over the summer to continue to build upon the online learning experience from the past Spring. We will maintain a flexible and dynamic virtual learning experience for all of our students. We now have designated teams to support students and families in various ways and have created a one-stop resources and information page on our website for all things distance learning:
Black Lives Matter
MSD has recognized the need for a centralized place to educate the school community about the complex and multi-layered journey of the Black experience, past and present. Our Black Lives Matter website was created and developed with the purpose and intention to educate the community about racism and injustice faced by Black people in this world today. Included is a webpage explaining the guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement. Relevant to MSD's school community and in an effort to honor transparency, you will find links to reports administered by the six work groups. Please note that this is phase one of development and that additions to the website will be continuous. That being said, please take a moment to visit our resource center designed to encourage reflection and transformation:
Share your First Day of School photos with us! Direct Message your images to @MSDorioles on Instagram or email and your photos may be featured on our website and social media pages. Use the hashtag #MSDFirstDay and show us how you're celebrating the first day of school!
Please don't hesitate to reach out to us and we wish everyone a great school year!
Kevin Strachan, Principal, Frederick Campus
Jennifer Yost Ortiz, Dean of Student Affairs, Frederick Campus
Dawniela Patterson, Principal, Columbia Campus