Despite good intentions, MCPS fumbles first day of school after break

Heather Jauquet

Lack of bus drivers, teachers, and substitutes makes for a rocky start into 2022

With continued treacherous weather on the roads, Montgomery County Schools begin the first day after winter break with a 2-hour delay. The message came around 5am alerting parents and staff that the first day of school would begin with a two-hour delay.

More than 3 hours later, the school system notified that at least 90 out of MCPS’ 1,228 bus routes were affected by the unexpected unavailability of bus drivers However, the notification came too late for some families. Parents dropped off their children at bus stops only to find out that their route was affected, and their children needed to be picked up from their bus stops and personally dropped off at their schools.

Families were encouraged to organize carpools or to walk in groups if possible. To alleviate the burden on parents to find their child’s bus route number, some principals took the time to notify their communities if their bus routes were affected. One parent shared her frustration on social media after her child was at an unplowed street corner for 40 minutes for a late bus begging MCPS to “Call it a day! Enough!”

MCPS apologized to parents for the inconvenience. In a communication sent to parents, they said they are working to understand the problem better and communicate with parents how they resolve the issue.

It is unclear if routes will still be affected on Thursday.

In addition to a late start and the lack of bus drivers, schools reported excessive staff absences, lack of substitutes, and class coverage. Front office staff had the burden of finding coverage for classes and doing COVID-19 tracing. Teachers in the building were asked to cover classes as they were able. There were not enough teachers to cover classes in one school and sent students to the cafeteria. In addition, Sherwood High School staff came to a building lacking heat.

Students who were still quarantined and unable to attend in-person were given links to virtual classrooms. However, no one was available to teach the classes, and students were met with dark screens waiting for their teacher to let them into the virtual classroom. But with the lack of teachers in buildings, it is no wonder that it also affected the virtual classrooms for quarantined students.

The additional burden on teachers to work with a modified schedule and cover classes have left staff frustrated and exhausted. There are not enough bodies to provide the needed coverage for students. There are also concerns that the number of COVID-19 cases at schools is underreported, leaving staff and students vulnerable to an outbreak.

As of January 4, 11 identified red schools with more than 5% reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Red schools will begin virtual instruction tomorrow with their teachers. Wednesday, January 5, was a planning day for teachers to help them transition to virtual teaching.

89 identified yellow schools have reported 3% to 5% of positive COVID-19 cases. As positive cases are reported, they could be next on the list to transition to virtual learning.

How were you affected by today’s events? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Certified educator K-12 and Reading Specialist with a focus on the adolescent brain. I write about how educational decisions affect parents, students, and staff. As an educator and parent I also focus on community events for the whole family.

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