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Superintendent's Welcome Back Message

August 14, 2020

Dear Orange County Schools Families,

I’m so excited to welcome your students to the 2020–2021 school year. Your support for your students and our schools has been nothing short of amazing.

As we enter this school year, we are all adapting to all-remote learning for our first nine weeks to help maintain the safety and well-being of our students and staff. But it’s important to share that our commitment to equity, excellence and access will not falter. Throughout the upcoming year, Orange County Schools will continue our focus on literacy, culture, climate and social-emotional learning, as well as family and community engagement.

So with that in mind, welcome back to school!

To get us off on the right foot, I wanted to share some important information with you about orientation during the first week of school, remote learning, meal distribution, attendance, technology and WiFi access, and child care.

The First Week of School: An Orientation to Remote Learning, Reconnecting, and Meeting Students’ Social Emotional Needs

The first week of school will be an opportunity for students and teachers to reconnect and for schools to ensure students and families are ready for remote learning. We want to ensure students and families are comfortable with remote learning and the technology needed to keep students engaged and connected. It is also important for our students to reconnect with each other and to support their social and emotional needs. So, no worries if you’re not 100% ready; teachers will spend the first week helping families and students to get ready for remote learning.

Remote Learning

We used our remote learning experiences from the spring semester to build our programs for this fall. We’ve had the opportunity to review what worked well and where we faced challenges. Using the expertise of our cross-sectional panel of teachers, school leaders and instructional experts, we’ve developed a robust learning environment for our Orange County Schools scholars.

This year, students will experience a blend of:

  • direct instruction focused on new content;
  • structured time with teachers and peers;
  • self-paced work;
  • targeted support for students; and
  • enhanced accountability through attendance and the submission of assignments.

For more information, please review our remote learning session on YouTube. This video outlines technology needs, what to do if you have limited technology, sample schedules, and what families need to know to best support their children.

We’re providing both structure and flexibility for students, and we remain committed to connecting with our families and our staff on how remote learning is progressing.

Meal Distribution

Due to state requirements, we are changing our meal distribution processes from the processes used this summer. Most importantly, know that all students who need meals will have access to them. Families can pick up meals for all students by visiting just one school during the meal pick-up hours of 10 a.m. until 1:00p.m. at one of the following 11 meal distribution sites:

  1. Gravelly Hill Middle School
  2. Orange High School
  3. Cedar Ridge High School
  4. New Hope Elementary School
  5. Efland Cheeks Global Elementary School
  6. Hillsborough Elementary School
  7. Pathways Elementary School
  8. The Orange County Schools Welcome Center
    920 Corporate Drive, Hillsborough, NC 27278
  9. New Horizon Church
    100 Horizon Place, Durham, NC 27705
  10. Supper Club Mobile Home Park
    211 Supper Club Rd, Mebane, NC 27302 (near mailboxes)
  11. Cedar Grove Community Center
    800 NC Highway 86 N, Hillsborough, NC 27278

August 17 through September 4 meals will need to be picked up daily; beginning September 7, two to three day meals can be picked up at one time. Click here to access the district’s Plan C Meals FAQ for a lot more information. Of course, this is an evolving situation. We may need to update our plans as state guidance changes.

Attendance
Attendance in school and participation in class are integral parts of academic achievement and the teaching-learning process. Through regular attendance, students develop patterns of behavior essential to professional and personal success in life — and help us all learn and grow together.

In line with our School Board Policy, students are expected to be in attendance for class daily and present for each session. Here’s how we are tracking attendance in our remote learning environment:

  • On remote learning days, teachers will take daily/period attendance each morning in PowerSchool. A student is considered “Present Off-Site”for daily attendance during a remote learning day:
  • If a student completes their daily assignments, either online or offline; and/or
  • If a student has a daily check-in, a two-way communication as communicated by the teacher, with the appropriate teacher(s):
  • In grades PK-5, homeroom teacher
  • In all other grade levels, each course teacher as scheduled

Note that a student cannot be considered absent solely due to not logging into an online resource/lesson on a remote learning day.

If a student is sick, please communicate with your teacher about the illness or leave a message on the school phone. They will be considered excused for illness in line with our attendance policy. The following are things you can do to support good school attendance:

  • Talk to your student about the importance of attendance & active participation.
  • Set a regular bedtime and morning routine.
  • Prepare for school the night before, finishing homework and getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid appointments and extended trips when school is in session.
  • Develop back-up plans for attending & participating in school if something comes up. Contact family members, friends, or other parents for help.
  • Keep track of your student’s attendance through the PowerSchool Parent Portal.
  • Talk to your students’ teacher(s) or School Counselor if you notice sudden changes in behavior.

Click here to see an attendance informational flyer schools are personalizing for their families.

Technology Devices and Online Access

Access to technology is necessary for remote learning. We are committed to providing that access for all our students. If your student needs a device, please contact your student’s school and they will secure one for your student.

Wireless internet access is also vital. Therefore, all OCS high school and middle school parking lots provide wireless access points. The location of the hot spots at the secondary schools are listed on the district website. We will also be sending an Orange County Schools bus throughout the county to provide a variety of access for students. We will first test several locations and based on the use, determine a more permanent schedule. Bus WiFi access will be available at the following locations listed below for the first two weeks of school from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily: schedule here.

WiFi access is available in public spaces and parking lots outside of local businesses. A full list of these locations can be found here.

Also, the internet provider Spectrum is offering free link WiFi access points. You can click on this link (https://www.spectrum.com/wifi-hotspots) to find free WiFi access near your home. Note, do not enter your information in the dark blue box. Enter your address in blocks on the map provided.

If you need a “hotspot” — which serves as a portable access to the internet — you can let your school know, and they will add you to a list. Please know that the district has distributed all 500 available hotspots at this time. An order for additional hotspots is in the works. Based on available inventory, we are expecting a shipment around August 28. We are also looking into other available models for an earlier delivery date.

Technology Tutorials and Support for Families

As we launch remote teaching this school year, it’s important to us that families and caregivers feel comfortable and confident managing the technology we are using. That is why we are providing a comprehensive online resource for families that will be updated regularly. Resources for OCS Families

We’ve also expanded our Help Desk to best support families. We shifted 10 part-time team members to our IT Department to help us quickly address family and caregiver questions and to solve challenges. The Help Desk can be accessed via email at ocshelpdesk@orange.k12.nc.us or by calling 919–245–4014. Also, please be reminded that the OCS administrative procedures regarding appropriate use of technology, social media and email apply to our online instruction. Please see Policy 3325/7320: Technology Responsible Use for more information.

Finally, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is providing a large library of resources and technology tutorials for families. You can find the resources here.

Appropriate Use of OCS Technology

As we begin this new school year, we want to remind families that the standards of conduct we expect at school will also apply while using online platforms and OCS technology. Our students and families deserve to feel safe in remote classroom spaces just as they expect to be safe in our buildings. Inappropriate language or images, bullying, harassment, or disruptive behavior in virtual meetings or classes will not be tolerated. This type of conduct will result in discipline which may include suspension from live remote instruction and/or loss of OCS technology privileges. Law enforcement may be contacted to address online behavior that endangers the safety of others or may violate criminal statutes. Appropriate Use of OCS Technology

Parents, please speak to your children about the importance of online safety and following school rules during remote instruction. If you or your child witness any harmful behavior during remote learning please contact your teacher or school administrator immediately.

Licensed Child Care

We know many of you may still need additional child care support during this time. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has set up a child care hotline (1–888–600- 1685) where families can call to get information about local options for infants through children age 12. The hotline is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. When families call the hotline, specialists provide referrals to licensed child care programs that are open and have vacancies for the age of the child(ren) who need(s) care.

As of the beginning of August, there are currently about 30,000 slots available for school-age children in licensed child care offices across the state, but availability varies from community to community.

Supervised Learning Labs

In addition to the licensed child care options, our team is discussing other safe, in-person program possibilities. These options are meant to safely support students’ educational and academic success, while also supporting our families’ financial security by going to work. We are working with the Orange County Health Department to launch our Supervised Learning Labs to accomplish these goals. More Information

Safety First

Finally, the pandemic is an ever-changing situation. We’ve met several challenges head-on during this time and more are likely to come our way. We’ll continually revisit our plans, including our timeline for returning to the classroom, as needed. In the meantime, you can do your part with the 3Ws:Wear, Wait, and Wash.

By wearing our face coverings, giving each other 6 feet of space, and washing our hands, we can all do our little part to help our students get back into our classrooms.

As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to be in touch with your child’s school or visit our website at www.orangecountyfirst.com. And, thank you, again, for your ongoing support, patience, flexibility, and grace. We are here to support you and will do all that we can to ensure a good start to the school year. We’re in this together!

Warmly,

Dr. Monique Felder

Superintendent