July 30, 2020
Dear Whittier Community,
First of all, it is my sincere hope that you are health and well in these times of great stress and uncertainty for families. I know that physical health is important, but also want to reinforce how important mental health and well-being are for adults and children alike. I want you to know that, though I may be new here and we are still getting to know each other, your Whittier staff is here for you as always. Please let us know what you need and we will work to support you.
Last spring, at all schools across our county, we all entered an experience with virtual learning that was stressful and difficult to say the least. It could not properly be called "learning" in the sense that we usually mean by learning. It was survival. For many families, this was compounded by financial stress, loss of employment, and physical illness. I want to thank all of our families and staff sincerely for how well you supported each other and faced a very difficult situation focused on making it the best it could be for children.
With last evening's decision by our Board of Education to participate in virtual learning for the first semester of school, through January 28th 2021, I am quite certain that all of us are faced again with feelings of uncertainty, stress, and many questions that have to be answered. I want to reassure you that, while there will certainly be many challenges for all of us, we will solve them and we will work together with you and your family to support our Whittier students in all possible ways.
Over the summer so far, we have been working very hard to learn from our spring experience, attend to the feedback you provided, and use best-practices to inform us in making enhancements to our virtual learning in the fall. These include:
- Increased live digital interactions between students and educators
- a single digital platform for parents to access instruction, communication, and feedback for all students
- virtual coursework that is more rigorous and challenging
- robust professional learning opportunities for educators to increase their skill set for teaching in a virtual environment which includes on-demand professional learning videos and courses for educators
- new parent resources
- student training videos that will enhance their abilities to access learning in a virtual environment
- strategies to provide a significant focus on tending to individual student needs
- continued efforts to connect each and every child digitally
The Board of Education has charged staff to identify targeted small groups of students to participate in face-to-face instruction to support individualized educational needs, to ensure access to virtual options, and to address specific courses requiring in person instruction.
More information will be provided to parents regarding these options. Parents/guardians will ultimately reserve the right to decline these services if they have concerns regarding their child's health in a face-to-face FCPS school building. Specific health measures will be in place to protect the health of both students and staff.
FCPS is in a strong position to teach students in a virtual environment this coming school year. We, at Whittier Elementary, know that this school year will have unique challenges, but we have every confidence that we will meet those challenges and are looking forward to starting our school year.
In the meantime, we have been working on:
- groupings and assignments of teachers
- development of schedules for virtual instruction
- plans for technology access for families
- meeting with our special education team and leadership team to solve problems and plan ahead
- I will send weekly communication to provide updates and timelines so that families are informed and prepared
- School staff will be contacting individual families to make sure we have strong communication and can support students together.
Finally, I want to acknowledge that this situation we find ourselves in is not what we wanted or what we hoped for. I also know that some of our families face more significant obstacles than others. I believe that this community will overcome any obstacles we face. We will help those who need help. We will solve problems that are believed to be unsolvable. We are not afraid to work hard. We will all need to stay positive and be productive as we work together to help our students learn.
I am available to respond to any questions that you may have. You can email me directly from the link below or call the front office at 240 236 3100. You may also follow me on Twitter @fcpsOhEithir. I am here to serve and to help.
Mr. OhEithir, Principal
Whittier Elementary School - Believe, Achieve, Succeed
We will also communicate through our school website
Follow me on Twitter @fcpsOhEithir where I will communicate school news and happenings