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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent: “we are going to move away from Blackboard Learn 24-7 as a tool for face to face instruction”

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Check out the following message, sent out last night, from Scott Brabrand, Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools, regarding the decision to “move away from Blackboard Learn 24-7 as a tool for face to face instruction.” For more background on this situation, see Video: Fairfax County School Board Discusses “Disastrous Rollout of Online Education,” What to Do About It.

Coronavirus Update – Message from the Superintendent – April 20

Coronavirus Update – April 20

Dear FCPS Community,We began our second attempt at teacher-led virtual instruction today and continued to experience difficulties with Blackboard Learn 24-7. This is frustrating and disappointing for everyone. We recognize that our students and teachers need a reliable system for virtual learning; therefore, we are going to move away from Blackboard Learn 24-7 as a tool for face to face instruction. Teachers and students will continue to use  Blackboard Learn 24-7 to access instructional resources and supports.

Today, with the support and direction of the School Board, I am taking additional steps to improve our distance learning plan for 189,000 students.  First, I am initiating a comprehensive, outside review of the distance learning rollout. We have retained Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, a law firm with expertise in information technology and cybersecurity.  We anticipate a report from them in the next few weeks to guide our continued work in distance learning.

Secondly, I am creating the Superintendent’s Technology Advisory Council with three co-chairs: Bobbie Kilberg, President and CEO of the Northern Virginia Technology Council; Andrew Ko, Managing Director of Global Education at Amazon Web Services; and Amy Gilliland, President of General Dynamics IT.

This council will initially offer guidance to help resolve any current distance learning challenges and provide ongoing support to enhance distance learning in a K-12 environment.   The council will meet regularly to advise me on best practices in technology architecture and infrastructure, examine emerging software that will enhance online learning opportunities, and recommend cutting edge educational technology for teachers and students. The council will also examine successful private sector experiences that can be applied to the K-12 environment.  I seek their guidance as FCPS makes it a goal to create a sustainable, efficient, safe, and connected learning environment to support students and staff.  Our co-chairs understand the urgency for addressing these issues in an expedited fashion.

Our amazing teachers, school-based technology specialists, and other support staff will continue to provide creative instructional opportunities to students through a variety of other tools such as Google Classroom, pre-recorded videos, learning packets, eBooks, and other approved digital resources as well as directing students to programming on Channels 21, 25, and 99. Whether it’s mailing a letter, recording a read-aloud, or calling students at home, our teachers have gone above and beyond to show they care and these interactions will continue.

We will also provide “face to face” instruction to our students as schools begin the transition away from the Blackboard Learn 24/7 system. Schools will be preparing to provide virtual instruction through a secure Blackboard Collaborate Ultra link or through other alternative means. Teachers will contact students over the next several days about virtual learning opportunities and the platform that will be used.

For tomorrow, and until our schools have communicated their plan for teacher-led instruction, our teachers will not be providing face to face instruction. Instead, our teachers will continue  to provide other learning opportunities via a variety of platforms.

Although the start of virtual distance learning has not gone as planned, I am incredibly grateful to our teachers and support staff for the tremendous amount of hard work, long hours, and the learning provided to our students thus far.

Thank you for your support and patience during this very difficult time.

Sincerely,

Scott Brabrand, Superintendent
Fairfax County Public Schools