A Message from the Deputy Superintendent
In case you missed it, this message was emailed to staff on August 28 before classes began on August 31. It includes valuable information on classroom recordings, Zoom chat features and substitute teacher availability.
I hope you are well as we approach the first day of school. We have heard your feedback on ways to ensure high-quality instruction in a virtual environment. Based on your feedback, I want to provide updates on the following important issues:
- Parent recording guide
- Chat features in Zoom
- Substitute teacher availability
- The ability of teachers to use their in-school classrooms as part of their virtual teaching space.
Parent Guide to Virtual Classroom Recordings
Recording live instruction is critical to ensure students have the access and opportunity to learn. We know there have been many questions from parents about recording in virtual classrooms. To address these questions, we have created a guide to understanding recordings. The guide includes information about privacy, security and more.
The full document can be viewed here.
Chat Features in Zoom
We have heard from many teachers and families asking if the Zoom Chat feature can remain on to facilitate engagement in the classroom. In response to those requests, we have worked with Zoom to ensure that a chat solution is safe and secure. We can now enable this feature.
Here are the details:
- Chat functionality will be turned off by default, but the teacher can turn it on for use in their classroom. You can access this feature through the settings.
- Private chat between students will continue to be disabled.
- Group chat and direct chat with the teacher will be enabled.
- These chats will be recorded as part of normal classroom recording and deleted after 72 hours.
- We are working on a training video. We will make it available soon.
Substitute Teacher Availability and Training
As we did last spring, we will have a cadre of substitute teachers who have had training on using tools in the virtual learning platform. Educators will use the regular processes to request substitute coverage through the Substitute Employee Management System (SEMS).
Teaching From A Classroom
Beginning on September 14, teachers will be able to teach from their classrooms. Schools will establish procedures and guidelines to support this access, which will include the required health attestations and require the use of personal protective equipment. Schools may also include restricted access points and restructured building use guidelines. A link to the form requesting access will be made available by your principal next week.
Staff may also access the building to retrieve materials or for other preparation periodically through requests to the principal and in keeping with the health requirements.
Finally, you will have heard that Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon spoke Thursday to provide updated state guidance on the return to in-person instruction for local school districts. The extremely late release of this information, coming just days before the beginning of the school year is deeply disappointing. To be clear: MCPS will begin the school year in a virtual-only instructional model on August 31, as scheduled. The statements from the Governor and State Superintendent will mean that many in our community will have questions about what this new guidance means for our students. We will take the time to thoughtfully assess these developments and continue to prepare for a successful start to the school year. Our focus will always be on the academic needs and health and safety of our students and staff.
We know that this transition to virtual instruction will not be perfect. There will be challenges and bumps along the way. But I am confident that together, we can provide our students with a robust, flexible learning experience. I look forward to seeing all that we can accomplish on behalf of our students this year.
Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.