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ACPS Superintendent Hutchings asks community to hit the brakes on email campaigns

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. has one request for the community at large: Lay off the email campaigns.

Rather than individual emails with a question or a comment, Hutchings said his office and others in ACPS staff have been bombarded recently with copy-and-pasted emails. It’s become enough of an issue that Hutchings said at a School Board work session last week that the level of crowding in school staff emails has sometimes caused issues with missed communications.

“There’s this campaign, at times, to do emails to the Board,” Hutchings said. “That is not how we operate. What happens is that I have work coming into that same email address and I have to filter through all of that to get the day to day work done. That has an impact on our operations, that’s just not the way to do business… We’re shifting into a space where it’s ‘bombard people with emails and that’s how we get things done.'”

Beyond his office, Hutchings said that extends to principals of various schools. Hutchings asked that the community give them space to work rather than spend most of their time addressing emails.

The latest issue to draw some public ire, Hutchings said, is the topic of school lunches.

“We’ve been hearing a lot about lunch at schools,” Hutchings said. “I was getting several emails about lunch. Some of them, one that stood out, was that our principals are powerless or don’t have a say, and I was really surprised because we’ve focused on empowerment of our principals. Our principals and our staff are well equipped to give me feedback, to provide me guidance, and help me make decisions on what’s best not only for their schools but for the division overall.”

Hutchings said parents throughout the region have been pushing for schools to have outdoor lunch to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, but the superintendent said it’s a complicated issue.

“How do we establish a plan in ACPS to ensure that is is a sustainable solution,” Hutchings said. “Not a temporary fix — but something to have five days a week for this whole school year. We need to ensure we’re putting structures in places to be able to do that. Every school cannot do outdoor lunches as an option.”

Currently, programs involve spacing lunches out to have the fewer of kids in the cafeteria at any given time. Hutchings said students are also trained to remove their mask to eat, not to remove their mask for the full lunch period.

“We’re teaching them that etiquette,” Hutchings said. “That means you eat your food, put your mask on, then talk to your friends.”

Moving lunches outdoors, Hutchings said, can quickly spiral out of control in a few ways.

“We have to keep in mind that there’s more than just lunch happening in our schools; that’s school operations 101,” Hutchings said. “We have recess happening, physical education, and people just sometimes outside of the schools depending on when and what location. We have to ensure that the planning we put in place is going to be sustainable, and that’s really the bottom line.”

Added to this are concerns about heat waves, flooding, and other inclement weather situations, the superintendent said.

“We would literally, each day, be figuring out what we’re going to do in regards to the lunch period, which is a complete disaster,” Hutchings said.

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