Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: Diary of a superintendent

Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Ed.D.: Diary of a superintendent
Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D. (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)

The past month was unprecedented. Alexandria City Public Schools experienced events that no superintendent expects to see in their career – but our ACPS team stepped up and rose the challenges. Students and families were at the forefront of every decision.

This month, I am going to share some of the extracts from ACPS Express over the past month. Anyone can sign up to receive ACPS updates during the coronavirus outbreak by signing up for ACPS Express via the ACPS-at-Home website.

March 16: Day 1 – Learning from Home Experience

Greetings to all! As we embark on our new journey learning and working remotely, I want to let you know that you are not along at this difficult time. We will provide you with updates, information and tips every day. I will answer your questions on a daily video Q&A.

Day 5

By the end of week one, 8,625 Learning Packets have been distributed to elementary school students, 6,008 students were actively engaged in lessons online, more than 10,000 meals have been served to students and families and media stories about ACPS have reached 151 countries around the globe.

Day 6

Today, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all K-12 schools will need to close until the end of the school year.

Day 8

We have cancelled our National Decision Day celebrations, Senior Prom and High School Graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020. As you can imagine, this is simply heartbreaking for our seniors and their families. And we’ll work to ensure that our seniors still celebrate this time in their lives.

Day 9

As we begin to transition from our 30-day plan to our 90-day plan, we are also looking at ways in which we can enhance our use of technology as a school division. ACPS students are already blessed with access to Chromebooks from grades three through 12. But our circumstances have meant that we may need to look at ways in which our youngest students in pre-K through grade two can also use technology to help them access the teachers and activities they may need in the next few months. We have also added a technology hub to our ACPS-at-Home website.

Day 10

In our second week of closure, we served 17,344 meals, answered 677 calls to the Spanish, Arabic and Amharic hotline and you tuned in more than 15,000 times to my daily Q&A.

Day 11

Check out the new Story Hour resource for our youngest students.

Day 12

We hope you noticed the shout out by U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, to T.C. Williams High School history teacher Gabriel Elias. During a televised briefing at The White House on Friday, DeVos spoke about how educators are stepping up their game and applauded “the history teacher from Virginia who connected each day with his students via online video.”

Day 13 – Census Day

The governor confirmed that the U.S. Department of Education has approved waivers for the Standards of Learning tests this year.

Day 14

Today is all about our proposed changes to grading. ACPS is following the Virginia Department of Education guidance in recommending adjustments to its grading policy and academic calendar for the third and fourth quarters to accommodate the closure of school buildings without penalizing and student.

Day 15

I’m excited to share our plans to ensure continuity of learning after spring break through the end of the fourth quarter. The Continuity of Learning Plan is our robust educational blueprint for going forward in these unprecedented times. As we navigate our “new normal,” we are as committed as ever to educational equity – responding to each student’s challenges, interest and abilities as well as providing the tools needed to continue educational advancement.

When we return from spring break, we hope you feel as enthusiastic as we do for the remainder of the academic year.

In the meantime, stay, stay health and stay informed!

The writer is superintendent of Alexandria City Public Schools.