THE HUB - Feature Article

  • Open or Closed, Our Commitment to Children Doesn’t Change

    Posted by Dr. George Arlotto on 3/19/2020

    In the six years I have had the privilege to serve as Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, no single topic has generated as much discussion, adjustment, or public concern as the current coronavirus, or COVID-19, issue.

    As our schools operated in recent months amid daily news of new positive test results around the world and then in the United States, the parents, guardians, and families of the 85,000 children we serve every day were, quite naturally, concerned about their welfare. The 12,000-plus employees who are part of our awesome team were understandably anxious about their own families while simultaneously helping the children in their charge and continuing to deliver amazing instruction and support every day.

    The last seven days have brought a sea change to the landscape of Anne Arundel County. Early last week, following advice from our incredible partners at the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, we curtailed field trips and staff travel, then imposed other restrictions on athletics and large group events. In the wake of Maryland’s first case of community transmission of the disease, schools are now closed for two weeks, library and senior center doors are locked, and restrictions on events imposed by Gov. Larry Hogan are in place.

    Here is what has not changed, though: our unwavering commitment to our children.

    Through the 10 school days our students will miss, our incredible team in Food and Nutrition Services will be preparing hot meals and snacks for curbside delivery at 31 schools and mobile meal stops at 21 more sites. We estimate that we will provide healthy and nutritious meals for as many as 13,000 children ages 2 to 18 in the county each day – 130,000 total meals –
    but are prepared to adjust and prepare more meals if the need exists.

    We fully recognize that a significant number of children depend on our schools for their meals, and we are not about to let them down. Our team was planning for this long before Thursday’s closure announcement and is modeling the program after the highly successful summer meals program we have run for many years.

    Likewise, our teams in Academics and Design & Print Services began to create instructional resource materials some time ago. Those are up and available on our website, www.aacps.org. For students without internet access, the materials are being broadcast on AACPS-TV, which can be found on Channel 96 on Comcast and Broadstripe and Channel 36 on
    Verizon.

    The material is not intended to replicate classroom lessons and it will not be graded. It will, however, allow children to stay engaged academically for a few hours each day and to continue to refine and enhance their skills and knowledge. Schools at all levels made books from their media centers available to all students on Friday for exactly the same reason.

    While our buildings are closed, our dedicated Operations team will be cleaning more than 13 million square feet of real estate in more than 120 locations. They will go classroom by classroom to help ensure that whenever it is that our schools reopen, they are clean and ready for students and employees.

    We are as equally committed to our employees as we are to our children. We have taken steps to ensure that paychecks for our employees continue to be delivered on time, and most of our 12-month employees will work from outside our central and satellite offices over the next two weeks to ensure that the work of the system continues to get done.

    History is a great teacher, and recent history tells us that the conditions that exist today are almost certain to change in the near future. The road ahead is likely to be rocky and full of uncertainty, but everyone can be sure of this: We will remain steadfastly committed to the wellbeing of our children.

    The writer is Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools. He can be reached at
    superintendent@aacps.org.

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    March 16-April 24 -- Schools closed for all students

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