MoCo BOE votes on safety guidelines for MCPS staff and students

Heather Jauquet

What does fall 2021 look like for MCPS?

Montgomery County Public Schools has a new slogan for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year: Opening Schools Back Better Than Ever. Schools will be open to 100%, five days a week, with a full-0time teacher in the classroom.

What does fall reopening for MCPS staff and students?

In a move towards returing to a life before the pandemic, schools have removed pandemic signage. Once again, students and staff can use bathrooms, lockers, cubbies, hallways, and water fountains as they had pre-pandemic. Physical distancing is no longer required. Students can fully utilize outdoor play areas.

MCPS Interim Superintendent, Dr. Monifa McKnight, cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in her recommendation that all staff and students wear masks while in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

The Montgomery Board of Education viewed a video recommending all staff, parents, and students over 12 to get vaccinated. The video also shared that staff, students, and visitors will be required to wear appropriate face coverings in school buildings.

Recommended face coverings

According to the “Frequently Asked Questions” on their website MCPS says staff and students may bring a face covering if it meets the following requirements:

  • Be constructed of tightly-woven fabric or material;
  • Have at least two layers of material;
  • Permit normal breathing;
  • Fit snug, but not uncomfortably tight;
  • Cover the face from the bridge of the nose to under the chin, fully covering the nostrils and mouth;
  • Be properly maintained: kept clean, dry and in good condition (no excessive wear, tears, and holes, damage).

As a side note, MCPS Fine Arts has approved specific masks with coverable openings that may be used while playing wind instruments.

“I move that the Board endorse and supports the superintendent’s recommendation fall masking requirements as recommended but the American Academy of Pediatrics for everyone in school buildings and on school buses to wear a mask.” Patricia O’Neill, Montgomery County Board of Education Member

After listening to the data and watching the video presentation, board member Patricia O’Neill motioned to support MCPS’s decision to require face coverings in schools and buses in the fall. The motion was seconded, and the board voted unanimously to endorse and Dr. McKnight’s recommendation based on the information provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Although education is our mission, keeping the students and staff safe, is imperative and with the ability to ask about vaccination status, we all must wear face coverings.”—Brenda Wolff, Montgomery County Board of Education President

Board President Brenda Wolff stated, “That, although education is our mission, keeping the students and staff safe, is imperative and without the ability to ask about vaccination status, we all must wear face coverings.

Dr. McKnight shared at the board meeting that in MCPS, 45 to 52 percent of students are under the age of twelve and therefore unable to receive the vaccine. That percentage, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation, warrants a universal masking policy.

When asked by Board Vice President Karla Silvestre if the masking recommendations were for the entire year, Dr. McKnight responded that they would continue to evaluate the situation quarterly. The flexibility allows the BOE to make or change recommendations as needed to fit the ever-evolving climate.

Bottom Line

  1. All MCPS students, staff, and visitors will be required to wear face coverings in the school buildings this fall, regardless of vaccination status.
  2. Students will be required to wear masks on school buses.
  3. All schools will return to their pre-COVID schedules, including bell times, bus schedules, number and length of class periods per day, lunch, and recess.
  4. MCPS and the BOE will continue to evaluate the situation and make recommendations quarterly based on guidelines provided by the CDC, AAP, and local health officials.

What do you think about the fall masking guidelines for MCPS staff and students? Are you in favor of universal masking? Let me know in the comments and tell me your thoughts.

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Heather Jauquet writes articles centered around the DMV and her adventures in other local communities. Follow her to get information about Montgomery County education, government, and community news. When she's not writing, she's running. Got a story to share? Email her: hjauquet@gmail.com

Gaithersburg, MD
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