Unclear if newly designated MCPS red schools will move to virtual learning despite exponential rise in cases

Heather Jauquet

MCPS receives pushback over decision to remain in-person as positive cases soar across the county

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A collective gasp could be heard across Montgomery County last night as parents saw the new data for their schools. On Tuesday morning at a media briefing 11 schools were identified to move to virtual learning over 14 calendar schools starting on Wednesday, January 5 with 89 schools in the yellow category.

Despite the exponential increase of schools moving to Red category, MCPS stubbornly refuses move to virtual for all its schools

However, within 24 hours of the first day back for students and staff the number soared 126 schools who have 5%+ reported positive cases among students and staff. During Tuesday’s media briefing, Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight said that the moving to a red category would not be an automatic move to virtual learning. MCPS is working in collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to make (DHHS) to determine which schools will move to virtual learning by a case by case basis.

According to the data distributed by MCPS, 10,244 positive cases among staff and students have been reported between December 23, 2021 and January 5, 2022.

In a letter to parents, one MCPS school reminded families that the determination to shift schools or school systems to virtual instruction is made by the state and in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services. Principals will be meeting on Friday morning with senior MCPS leadership to learn next steps.

However, parents are concerned and many have kept their children home during the shortened first week back to classes. Mother Nature has given a much needed reprieve as school was canceled for two days and provided another two days of delayed openings.

Staff shortages abound as bus drivers and teachers call out sick

Staff shortages across the county are overwhelming the system. Nearly 100 bus drivers have called out each day since the return to school leaving students scrambling for transportation. In schools, students have found themselves in a combined class or shuffled to their school’s cafeteria because there are not enough teaching staff in the building. With the rise of positivity rates in the county, only 25 percent of the county’s hired substitutes picked up jobs on Wednesday.

After the categorizing schools as green, yellow, and red to provide a semblance of a plan, there has been radio silence from the senior leaders in the county as more than half the county went into the red zone. Teachers are feeling abandoned by MCPS as they do their best to teach their classes and cover for their absent colleagues who are out due to illness.

The data dashboard displaying a school’s designation as green, yellow, or red stopped updating after two days and will be updated once a week on Wednesdays. There is still a daily reports page that will be displayed. Parents and teachers are concerned that the numbers displayed are inaccurate as many test kits are largely unavailable in Montgomery County.

Test kits made available to students

However, over the next two weeks, students will receive test kits from their schools. Students are expected to report positive results and quarantine for requisite 10 days. However, there is no accountability for families to report their results before coming back to school.

What do you think? Should schools go in-person or should everyone move to virtual learning for a couple of weeks? How has the lack of staffing affected your families? 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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