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Superintendent Caulk thanks families for support, looks ahead to summer & new school year

May 27, 2020 

Dear Fayette County Public Schools families:

We did it! Today officially marks the last day of the school year. And believe me, I use the word “we” intentionally because I deeply appreciate the extraordinary role our families have shouldered this spring. It has been 75 days since our students and teachers were last together in person – that’s longer than our typical summer break. We routinely say that families are our partners in the Fayette County Public Schools, but you really proved the truth in that statement this year. You partnered with our teachers to ensure students were engaged and actively learning new material, and for that we say THANK YOU! Without your support and engagement, Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) would have been impossible.

Academics aside, as a father, I also appreciate how challenging it has been to help students overcome the disappointment of missing spring sports and extracurricular activities, cancelling planned trips and losing milestone events like proms and end-of-the-year banquets. The difficulty of explaining the unknown to our students is especially hard while so many families are also struggling with loss, whether that be a job, a loved one, or personal connection. As we close out the 2019-2020 school year, it’s easy to focus wistfully on the ways this ending is different. There were no final bells, no field days, no promotion ceremonies, and no pomp and circumstance in Rupp Arena.

But I’ve never been one to do what is easy. Instead, I’m encouraged by the ways this ending amplifies all the things that COVID-19 has not changed – the importance of connection, the power of education to change lives, and the commitment of the Fayette County Public Schools community to overcome any obstacle for the good of our students.

Manny Caulk Our dedicated educators reinvented their instructional methods and found ways to engage students in learning while we were forced to be apart. With virtual lessons and paper and pencil activities, by text, conference call, email, and online meetings, our teachers stayed connected with their students and continued to challenge them academically. We distributed tens of thousands of laptops and Chromebooks, provided free hotspots, and expanded technology support for students and staff.

I am especially humbled by the work of those who assembled and distributed meals for students who might otherwise have gone hungry, those who kept school health clinics open for students and families with nowhere else to receive medical care, those who performed essential building maintenance to keep the district running, those who provided mental health services for students and families, and those who delivered weekend food and cleaning supplies to families in need.

Familiar end of the year traditions have been replaced with new ways to honor students and celebrate the importance of our connected community. Virtual band banquets, personal choir serenades, online student gatherings, yard sign deliveries and drive-by celebrations have instead taken place. This week Thursday and Friday (May 28-29), we will host the first-ever FCPS Senior Send-Off at the Kentucky Horse Park to give our graduates and teachers one last time to be together. Next week, our high schools will host drive up diploma distributions, and in mid-June, we will broadcast virtual graduation videos.

The end of the school year does not mean the end of our work:

  • Meals: Beginning June 8, FCPS, God’s Pantry Food Bank, and Employment Solutions participate in the “Kids Eat” Summer Food Service Program, which provides free meals for all children 18 and younger. Meals are available on a first-come, first-served basis at designated locations, dates, and times regardless of where the youths live or attend school. Meals for multiple days will be distributed at 21 school sites and 25 community sites.
  • Learning: In an effort to provide continued educational opportunities for students during the academic break, FCPS will offer Summer Bridge – free, independent virtual learning for preschool through eighth grade. These extra efforts in math and language literacy can help reduce learning gaps while providing structured activities for children to complete with little or no assistance. Two online sessions will be available, and students may participate in one or both: June 22 – July 10 and July 13 – July 31. Instructions on accessing the online platform will be sent to families in early June.
  • Support: FCPS and the 16th District PTA have partnered to offer “Face It: a series of family chats.” This online community of support is designed to provide opportunities for families to share their input and experiences, share important information and resources, and help families face the challenges, stress, and anxiety of the COVID-19 pandemic together. Weekly sessions air live on the 16th District PTA Facebook page. The next session will be Thursday June 4 at 6:30 p.m. English and 7 p.m. in Spanish, and will focus on Family Resource Centers and Youth Service Centers.

We’re also looking ahead to the 2020-21 school year, recognizing that we still face many unknowns. Pre-K through 12 education has long focused on “the three R’s.” We continue that focus with a twist in which the three R’s are now Re-envisioning, Reimagining, and Renewing. Our district has created a task force team that includes students, families, and school- and district-level staff to draft re-entry plans for three possible scenarios: a traditional start, a distance learning start, and a blended learning, incremental phase-in start. Our calendar team is also developing three options: an early start in late July, a normal start on Aug. 12, and a delayed start after Labor Day. As always, we will provide timely and transparent information about our plans as they begin to take shape.

We encourage you to take a break this summer, read with your children, and get outside to enjoy nature (while social distancing). Reflect on what we have accomplished together this year and recharge for our return in the fall.

Your partner,

Manny Caulk,
FCPS superintendent