Is this email not displaying correctly? View it in your browser Date: Aug. 16, 2020

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Dear Parents, Guardians, Students and Staff:

I am writing to provide updates on our planning for the 2020-2021 school year, which will begin on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. On Aug. 6, the Board of Education reviewed a draft plan and voted to approve a virtual-only first semester for the district.

Since August 6, we have received feedback from thousands of students, staff, parents and community members. We have used this feedback to begin making adjustments and enhancements to our plan to better meet the needs of our community. These updates include:

  1.  At the secondary level, a schedule adjustment on Wednesdays from 20-minute class periods to virtual check-in times. This will allow for more individualized student support.
  2. A greater emphasis on flexibility for students in our primary grades through recorded lessons and more.
  3. An extension of lunch in the secondary schedule from 60 minutes to 75 minutes to allow additional time for students to get to the meal sites. We have also extended the elementary lunch from 75 to 90 minutes.
  4. Additional planning time for teachers at the secondary level to increase preparation for virtual instruction. We are also providing greater flexibility and prioritizing teacher planning and collaboration time on Wednesday afternoons at the elementary and secondary levels.
  5. A shift in Montgomery College courses to begin before 9 a.m. and after 2:30 p.m. to avoid conflict with high school instructional periods
  6. A shift from an even/odd bell schedule to sequential for high schools and a choice between even/odd and sequential for middle schools

We will continue to make enhancements to the plan and share them with the community as we approach the August 25 Board of Education meeting. The Board will review and take a final vote on the plan during the meeting.

Please know that we understand your stress and anxiety as we work to finalize our plan for the coming year. I ask that you have patience and understanding as we tackle one of the biggest challenges facing public education in generations. 

MCPS, like other school districts across the nation, is reimagining every aspect of its work to provide all students with an education that prepares them to thrive in their futures. While this plan may never reach perfection, we can ensure that it will provide a flexible and high-quality learning experience for our students.

What We Know:

The first day of school will be Monday, Aug. 31. The Board will take final action on school schedules on August 25.
Teachers and staff will participate in pre-service week August 24-28. Pre-service is a critical time before the kickoff of a new year, and includes time for individual and team planning, school leadership team activities, team building and system-level training.
Social-emotional lessons and supports will be provided to all students every week.
The new parent portal, Synergy ParentVue, is live. This will serve as the primary tool for all schools to share information regarding grades, attendance, scheduling and more. Parents will receive an activation letter in the mail soon. Please enroll so we can share important school and community information in a secure way. If necessary, you will be able to update your contact information in the portal.
Students and families will receive final schedules on August 26.
All schools will hold technology and learning material distributions over the next two weeks (August 17-28). If you have not heard from your child’s school yet, a message will be coming soon on your specific distribution date and instructions for pick up. We have Chromebook devices for all MCPS students. Elementary students are receiving upgraded touchscreen devices.
Students will have opportunities to participate in engaging, virtual extracurricular activities and athletics for the first semester. 
MCPS will provide parents with a variety of trainings, workshops and recorded video sessions on a number of topics, including social-emotional wellness, distance learning strategies and supports, maintaining positive parent-child relationships, and navigating the technology. We have also prepared a checklist to help you get your child(ren) ready for virtual learning success.

Items in process:

We are working with county health officials on a process that will allow us to bring in small groups of students who receive special education and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services. By mid-September, we will provide more information on our plans to offer these in-person supports in the coming months.

MCPS will use a more traditional grading system for the fall semester. While we anticipate that we will have to adjust our grading system in certain areas, we want to ensure that we have a framework in place that reflects our students’ work, their learning and their progress.

MCPS is developing a process for recording lessons that families can access at a later time. Precautions will be taken to ensure confidentiality and privacy.

While the Maryland State Board of Education waived the Student Service Learning  graduation requirement last spring, we are still awaiting a decision for this school year. Until then, we continue to approve virtual and remote service learning opportunities.

Breakfast and lunch meals will be made available for pickup. We are finalizing details on the number of meal sites and the process for how students will access these meals.

MCPS has been working with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services  and Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) on school-aged child care providers seeking to operate in our school buildings this fall. These are providers who typically provide before and after care for school-aged children in our schools using shared space, administered through CUPF. The target date for beginning some school aged child care programming in schools is September 14. Approved providers must maintain small groups and operational distance between groups, as well as follow the state and county licensing and public health requirements.

Families can expect to receive frequent updates from the district and their schools as we enter the homestretch before classes start on August 31. Below are additional updates on our recent virtual conversations; our recovery plan submission to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE); the Give BACKpacks campaign; updated Student Rights and Responsibilities and Code of Conduct guides; upcoming webinars on sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships; and senior pictures.

Thank you for your support. Working together, we will ensure this will be a successful school year for our children.


Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools

Virtual Conversations on the MCPS Draft Recovery Plan

MCPS hosted two virtual conversations on our draft plan—one on August 12 for parents and the community and another on Aug. 13 for students. If you were unable to tune in live, I encourage you to watch the programs to learn more about our planning efforts.

Recovery Plan State Submission

In alignment with MSDE’s recovery requirements, we have submitted and posted our Fall 2020 Recovery Guide on ourwebsite. The document reflects the information presented during the Aug. 6, 2020, Board of Education meeting. The submission also includes an appendix of additional information specific to MSDE’s reopening requirements. MSDE has shared that they plan to review and approve school system plans.

Note: The submission does not reflect the revisions (listed above) that we have made to the plan since the August 6 meeting

Provide Supplies for Students in Need

Now more than ever, more students are going to need help accessing school supplies.

Students are having to adjust to a remote learning environment and it is critical to offer the resources and materials that provide ALL students with the opportunity to thrive academically.

The annual Give BACKpacks campaign is pivoting this year to respond to the needs of our students. For just $10, you can provide a student in need with supplies for virtual learning, which could include, paper, crayons, pencils/pens, whiteboards, dry erase markers and more.

Not all students have the materials needed to learn at home.Your donationwill help provide students with the necessary supplies to engage successfully in their lessons.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions about MCPS Give Backpacks.

Student Rights and Responsibilities

In order to ensure a safe, productive and positive learning environment, MCPS publishes two documents that help students, parents and staff understand school rules and regulations; the expectations for student conduct; and the possible consequences for violating the rules.

A Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities is an overview of the rights and responsibilities students enjoy in MCPS and a summary of the laws and regulations that affect students.

The Student Code of Conduct provides an overview of discipline procedures and protocols and the range of consequences students could face for violating various policies, regulations and rules. The guide also discusses the MCPS philosophy to discipline and defines various disciplinary responses.

You can view both of these guides, as well as our Guidelines for Respecting Religious Diversity and the Guidelines for Student Gender Identity, on the MCPS website.

Choose Respect Montgomery Hosting Webinars on Sexual Assault

Choose Respect Montgomery, an initiative from the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, will host two webinars to address sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships, and to provide resources and education in light of national and local conversations and recent social media postings.

There will be two virtual webinars—one for parents and one for teens—with speakers from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

The parent webinar will be held on Zoom from 6–7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 18. It will offer fundamental information about sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships; how to communicate with children about these issues; and how to advocate for a safer community.

Register here.

The student webinar will be held on Zoom from 6–7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 19. Teens will learn fundamental information about sexual assault, consent and healthy relationships; how they can use their influence to create safer environments and intervene in concerning situations; and how to support their friends.
Register here.

For more information, visit the Choose Respect Montgomery website.

Creating a Culture of Respect

SAT Exams

Based on the current guidance and in coordination with neighboring districts, the August 29 SAT administration is cancelled in MCPS facilities. Moving forward, we are working closely with the College Board and local health officials to provide opportunities for fall 2020 test administrations, if/when conditions allow. This will include potential opportunities for school day testing in September/October; potential SAT Saturday administrations on September 26, October 3, November 7, and December 5; and fall ACT administrations. Please note that these test administrations will depend on decisions by local health officials as it relates to COVID-19 and school operations, and availability of staff. We will continue to work on these plans and will publish information for the community before registration deadlines for the testing dates noted above. To help students during the summer and into the fall, College Board and Khan Academy will continue to provide free resources online, including full-length practice tests and personalized learning tools.

Senior Pictures

High schools traditionally set up opportunities for students to individually sit for senior portraits taken by vendor partners. Due to the current guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services, our high schools can begin providing these in-person opportunities in mid-September. This will provide more time for our schools to work collaboratively with vendors to ensure consistent implementation of public health guidelines and safety protocols, and effectively schedule each senior.