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Superintendent's Message for Families

Dear Families,

As we enter Labor Day weekend, I’m sharing another update on what’s happening in and around Orange County Schools. We are making progress on our remote learning. I’ve seen so many families coming together to help each other. But, I also know some families continue facing connectivity issues or other challenges as we take on this new way of teaching and learning due to COVID-19. 

I want to thank you for your patience and understanding. Thanks, too, for sharing what is and isn’t working for you and your children. Your feedback is helpful as we refine and calibrate instruction and instructional schedules in our continued efforts to provide the best, most equitable education possible to all students in Orange County Schools. 

Regarding challenges around internet access, please know that we are very much aware of this situation. We are continuing to look for solutions and to push for the state-level change we need to increase internet and cell service access to all areas of our county. Specifically, Mrs. Hillary MacKenzie, our Board of Education Chair, and I sent a letter to our state representatives. We called on them to increase internet and cell tower capacity and coverage across the state. 

You can help by doing your part as well. We encourage you to call or write a letter to our state leaders to let them know that our students ALL need access to the internet--and our state leaders play an important role in making sure they have it. By working together, we can make it known that some of our students still don’t have the right internet access at home simply because of where they live--and that isn’t acceptable.

While encouraging change at the state level, we are also taking proactive steps as a school district. We’ve purchased more hotspots and are distributing those to families where cell towers are present. While a hotspot will not solve the lack of WiFi access for families who don't live near a cell tower or increase low bandwidth for families who can access WiFi, due to the high demand, an additional order for hotspots is in process. For more information about hotspots please see the district’s Hotspot FAQ document.  We also continue making WiFi available in our middle and high school parking lots--and we are in the process of expanding that access to our elementary school parking lots, too. The goal of making WiFi available in school parking lots is to provide another WiFi access point for students to be able to download and upload assignments and/or connect synchronously for a period of time with their teachers and peers. 

To further address connectivity issues, effective September 14th, we will begin taking family reservations for OCS Internet Hubs.  OCS Internet Hubs will provide students with an indoor option to access the internet for two-hour blocks of time in three of our school cafeterias.  Families must provide their own adult supervision for students under 16 years old. All students and the adults accompanying them will be required to wear masks at all times and engage in on- site temperature checks before entering the cafeteria. For more information about the OCS Internet Hubs click here.

Finally, during our Listens & Learns this past school year, we heard from you that our students need good social-emotional learning support. This was true before COVID-19 but it is even more important now. Social-emotional learning, often referred to as SEL, is the ability and skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. With that in mind, this month we are launching a district-wide SEL survey for students in Grades 3-12, named Panorama, with the goals of:  

  • Evaluating and assessing the efficacy of various SEL program functions and making decisions about what is working and what is not. 
  • Regularly gathering SEL data to more systematically identify students and staff who need SEL support.
  • Providing data to develop and strengthen SEL resources and programs for students and staff 

I know we are getting students more fully engaged in learning and we are in the process of administering assessments to gather baseline data to inform instruction since there were no assessments administered last spring. Yet, like so many of you, I look forward to returning to in-person instruction as soon as it is safe to do so. Yes, we’re in Plan C, but the district continues to plan and prepare for Plan B. In the meantime, please know that our staff, at all levels, continues to be available to you. Please reach out at any time. As a quick reminder, our Family Resource Center is also a source of information. There you can find updates on upcoming information sessions, general resources by grade level, and technology information. 

Please enjoy the three-day holiday weekend and thank you, again, for your continued support.

Warm regards,

Dr. Monique Felder