Volume 40 , Number 6March 27, 2020


Grateful for our dedicated,
student-focused team

A Message from CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks

J. Alvin Wilbanks
CEO/Superintendent
Spring Break for Gwinnett County Public Schools is here— March 30 through April 3. This time off from digital learning will provide a much-needed pause for our students, teachers, staff, and families, who have shown resilience and a positive spirit under extremely difficult circumstances. We are grateful for the hard work and commitment you’ve demonstrated.

In these unprecedented times, I am proud that Gwinnett County Public Schools has been able to keep the important work of teaching and learning going so students can be provided the full 180 days of school this year. It is not by happenstance, but rather is the result of GCPS laying the groundwork for Digital Learning Days a few years ago. That proactive planning enabled us to prepare and equip our teachers and instructional leaders to deliver the effective online instruction that is evident today throughout the county.

Admittedly, the pandemic has presented challenges beyond anything we have experienced before. As we implemented Digital Learning Days in the past, and especially during these last two weeks, we have continually discovered ways to improve them. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we work together to provide our students a high-quality, if non-traditional, “school day” each day.

I also am pleased that we have been able to keep our employees working and on the payroll without interruption during this crisis. Countless companies and organizations are not able to say that today, and we hurt for them. The Board of Education and I appreciate your willingness to be flexible and to do whatever was needed to help the district manage a uniquely difficult situation. You prove every day why we say, “Our people are our greatest resource.”

As Spring Break approaches, let us look forward to the day when we can return to our normal school and work schedules. We may be facing a “new normal,” but I am optimistic and confident that the GCPS team will make it a “better” new normal… for our students, ourselves, and our organization. Take care, be well, and thank you for your service to our students and the Gwinnett community.

CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks
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What's next? GCPS schools to return to DLD after Spring Break
In light of recent state and national guidance, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin . Wilbanks and the Gwinnett County Board of Education elected to close all facilities for the entire week of March 30, ensuring that all employees would be able to "shelter in place" at home without having to use leave time or conduct school district business. 
During Spring Break, GCPS teachers and families will take a recess from Digital Learning Days and our schools will not provide student meals for pick up or delivery as our staff members will not be working. However, food assistance for families in need will be available during the break from other sources.

DLD and our student meal program will resume after Spring Break, on Monday, April 6.

Yesterday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the state's K-12 public schools would remain closed through at least April 24, a decision that affects nearly 2 million Georgia schoolchildren. Mr. Wilbanks acknowledged the tough decision made by the Governor, noting that remote learning can continue during the school closing order.

"Our Digital Learning Days have gone well and we are continuing to develop more lessons and to address the support that teachers and students have indicated they need," says Mr. Wilbanks. "We are confident that we can continue providing quality instruction online for as long as is necessary."
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Depend on health partners for COVID-19 updates
The health and safety of our staff, students, and families remain top of mind. We continue to rely on our health partners for information and guidance on what steps to take to slow the spread of illness.

During this rapidly evolving situation, be mindful that misinformation and rumors can spread rapidly via social media. Please refer to updates and resources from the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), the Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Gwinnett County Health Department to help keep you and your families safe and well.

Check out these 12 tips from the CDC to keep families healthy while schools are out of session.
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Kudos to GCPS staff 'rocking DLD'
In GCPS, we talk about the two types of employees who serve our community— those who teach and those who support those who teach. We are so proud of the hard work that both types of employees have done and will do in coming weeks to ensure that learning continues for Gwinnett schoolchildren, and that lunches are provided to children who need them.

We couldn't be prouder of our teachers and all they've done to make sure our students keep learning during these difficult timesfrom their work to transform lessons for a new platform to their caring and can-do attitude as we work through technical challenges!

With students, teachers, and most other employees away from school buildings, other staff members are able to keep their distance from one another while they work to support continued teaching and learning and prepare for when schools resume their normal schedules. Staff in our district offices also are working to support our schools in these efforts.

During these first two weeks of DLD, our teachersand the administrators and support staff who are supporting DLDhave ensured that GCPS continues to focus on our core business of teaching and learning, but they've also made sure that our school communities stay connected.

just a few of the ways our schools DLD story hours, superhero video messages, virtual spirit week activities, and remote concerts are are making the best of our current situation and keeping the "social" in social distancing.

We hope you've been following DLD news on the district's social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Hashtags like  #GCPSDLD, #MyDLD, #KeepGCPSLearning, and #KeepGCPSFed are putting the spotlight on the great work of GCPS employees and amplifying the appreciation of our students and their families.

Y'all rock!
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Team effort provides meals for students during DLD
It's been all hands on deck to support the feeding program
at 68 schools and on more than 500 bus routes,
but our staff has proven we are up to the challenge!


In the first nine days of DLD— March 16-20 and March 23-26— School Nutrition Program, Transportation, and other support staff and administrators worked together to prepare, serve, and deliver more than 258,000 meals! Thank you to these dedicated staff members for their commitment to Gwinnett schoolchildren!

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Behavioral Health Resources: Help available when you need it
With the spread of COVID-19 in our state and around the world, the news of this crisis can affect people in their minds and their hearts, undermining healthy communities and social relationships, at home and at work.

As a GCPS employee, you have access to behavioral health resources to help you cope during these difficult times. Through the district’s partnership with MetLife, these services are provided by LifeWorks, a national company that employs more than 30,000 licensed counselors.

The LifeWorks team has developed a number of resources to help organizations and employees understand and work through the challenges we all are facing. Find complimentary webinars online for the following topics:
Novel Coronavirus (About COVID-19),
Emotional Well-Being During the COVID-19 Pandemic,
Talking to Your Child About COVID-19, and
An Introduction to Working Remotely.

About behavioral health and counseling services
for GCPS’ benefit-eligible employees
24/7 confidential access to professional support to help benefit-eligible employees (including retirees) manage stress, anxiety, grief, financial concerns, and much more
Easy to connect to support by phone, video, or chatanytime, anywhere .
Vast library of online resources for coping with trauma, building resiliency, self-care, managing change, and much more
What’s available? Five sessions, per event, can be conducted via telephone or video chat. Additional sessions may be available under an employee’s insurance coverage on a fee basis, with in-network and out-of-network rates.
To speak with a counselor, call 1-888-319-7819, press 1.
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Remain vigilant for phishing scams
During this time, when we are more dependent than ever on our computers and staying connected electronically, organizations— including Gwinnett County Public Schools— are seeing an increase in phishing activity. In particular, cybercriminals are taking advantage of the pandemic to deliver COVID-19-themed phishing emails to unsuspecting victims worldwide. During the week of March 15, GCPS detected (and blocked) a tenfold increase in the number of malicious emails sent to GCPS staff members.
In light of this information and our current situation, our school district will begin identifying external emails sent to GCPS staff by placing a "warning banner" at the top of the body of the message. This will appear on incoming emails to GCPS staff after Spring Break.

The banner will read:
[CAUTION: This email originated from outside of the school district. Please do not open attachments or click website links unless you recognize the sender and know the content is safe].

This banner will bolster the security awareness of our employees by immediately alerting them that an email came from an external sender, which can help them to more quickly identify fraudulent email messages.
Should you encounter a suspicious email, please remember these steps:
—  Report it to Phishing.Spam@gcpsk12.org.
—  Delete the email from your Inbox, Sent folder, and Trash folder to permanently dispose of the malicious email message.

As always, we thank you for your attention to information security.
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DLD resources available for families online
During Digital Learning Days, GCPS is producing information for our families to help them support their child's learning. Check out COVID-19 resources for GCPS Families online, including home learning resources called DLD Daily Dozen tipsheets.
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    Last modified on 05/01/2020