Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D.: ACPS commits to equity for all

Filling in the Blanks with Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D.: ACPS commits to equity for all
Dr. Gregory Hutchings Ed.D. (Photo Credit: Susan Hale Thomas/ACPS)

There is no doubt that these are unprecedented times.

No one could have predicted the global pandemic that closed our school buildings suddenly on March 13 and left us quickly piecing together a virtual program to ensure that our students could continue to engage and learn and be fed meals through the end of the academic year.

Likewise, no one could have predicted that we would not be returning to school in our traditional fashion for the start of school this fall. In fact, almost everything about this situation has required us to think quickly and adjust our course to navigate each day as it comes. One of the bright spots for ACPS is that, in the midst of the global pandemic in June, we adopted a new 2025 Strategic Plan, Equity for All. While the rest of the world may have continued to swim upstream, we took the time to assess our goals, reflect on our core values and ground ourselves in the meaning of our life’s work. 

The strategic plan could not have come at a better time or with a better message. Equity For All 2025 places racial equity at the heart of every decision and every action that ACPS takes.

Through the plan, ACPS has committed to providing an equitable, high-quality education that is accessible and engaging to all students, while unapologetically dismantling systemic racism within our schools. Equity For All 2025 is a bold and courageous roadmap that will position ACPS as a national leader in redefining pre-K through 12 education as a deliberately inclusive and supportive experience where all succeed. 

This plan could not be more timely or critical as our nation grapples with the action needed for anti-racism, and as we plan our instructional programming for the fall. This plan challenges us to act now to end the historical racial inequities within our public schools and ensure that every student and family gets the services and support they need and deserve to be successful in life. 

Given its focus on racial equity, and the dialogue in which our strategic planning team has engaged around this topic over the past year, it has served as the perfect backdrop for all the decision-making and factors that contributed to our planning to reopen schools this fall. Equity was top-of-mind as we determined the feasibility of reopening schools while ensuring that all students are provided with what they need to be successful in their individual academic journey. We were grateful for this guiding document at such a challenging time.

The strategic plan’s mission is to ensure success by inspiring students and addressing barriers to learning, and the vision is empowering all students to thrive in a diverse and ever-changing world. In our plan, we define five core values that ensure ACPS is welcoming, empowering, equity-focused, innovative and results-driven.

In addition, Equity for All 2025 has five primary strategic goals: systemic alignment, instructional excellence, student accessibility and support, strategic resource allocation and family and community engagement.

Each of these goals ensures that students are engaged in instruction, have access to the educational resources needed to enhance their learning and participate while in safe, friendly and welcoming environments.

The instructional model ACPS will be using this fall encompasses all of these values and aims to meet each of the goals. It strives to place equity at the heart of the services we will be providing to our students and their families to ensure each student and their family gets what they need.

The Virtual PLUS+ model we are adopting for the start of the new school year provides teaching and learning within virtual classrooms while providing additional support that students, staff and families will need to navigate the new content being taught, to build relationships with teachers and staff, and to stay connected to the school community. 

Our “PLUS+” includes providing enhanced and formalized social, emotional and academic learning support and expanded technology resources so that all our students have access to technology, including our pre-K through second grade students who did not have access this spring.

In addition, the model includes childcare options in collaboration with our community partners for our most vulnerable families. It also provides continued access to meals to ensure our students stay healthy and ready to learn.

ACPS believes that the Virtual PLUS+ model is a strong launchpad from which to build as the division continues to plan for the return of in-person schooling as soon as it is feasible. 

Even as the ground underneath us keeps shifting as the pandemic presents new challenges, there is one constant, and that is our commitment to equity for all. 

The challenges we have faced this summer might be unprecedented, inconvenient and even unpredictable. They also present us with an opportunity. As long as we remain true to our mission, vision, goals and core values, and we continue to ensure that racial equity is at the heart of everything we do, we will steer a safe, steady course through the fall and come out stronger for it. 

This is an opportunity to steer a different path — one that directly confronts our past, challenges historic racial inequity and commits us to Equity for All. We must become an anti-racist school division, and the time is now.