Gayles Says ‘Realities Have Changed,’ In-School Learning is Not Safe

In-school learning is not a safe option right now, Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said at a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) media briefing Wednesday. 

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith announced Tuesday that the first semester of the 2020-21 academic year, beginning Aug. 31 and ending on Jan. 21, 2021, will be virtual-only instruction. In the letter and during the briefing, Smith acknowledged that Gayles’ guidance plays a big role in MCPS decision-making, and Gayles said the county isn’t ready. 

“The guidance that we provided to the MCPS team is rooted in the reality that the numbers have not improved overall in our county as well as the state and the nation to a point where it’s safe to have our children go back to school,” Gayles said. 

“Quite frankly, over the last several weeks we have moved from a place where we had positive momentum not only here in Montgomery County, across the state of Maryland, but across the country. Our realities have changed over the last several weeks that have shown us that there are over 40 states that are experiencing increases in cases including in Maryland right now.” 

According to the Montgomery County COVID-19 Dashboard, six of the past 14 days have had a decrease in new COVID-19 cases from the day before. Also, five of the past 14 days have seen a decrease in the number of patients going to the emergency room for coronavirus-related symptoms. Acute care beds have been at adequate capacity for seven of the past 14 days. Gayles said Maryland has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases in those ages 0-19, especially teenagers, another reason not to open school buildings. 

Smith said that in October MCPS will work with Gayles to look at current information and discuss the second semester, while keeping in close touch with the school board. He said by the beginning of November MCPS will be able to determine if it can begin to put strategies and systems in place that would allow for a blended learning model at the start of the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021. 

“[We will] continue this effort together until such time that the world shifts and hopefully that will be at the end of January, we will be able to shift the world of school significantly,” Smith said. He said MCPS will continue putting information out ahead of the Aug. 6 school board meeting, when the updated plan will be presented to board members. 

Watch Gayles explain the reasoning behind his guidance to MCPS:

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Maryam Shahzad

About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in December with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. Maryam loves visual media and always says the movie is better than the book. She can be reached at mshahzad@mymcmedia.org or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.

Comments

5 Responses to “Gayles Says ‘Realities Have Changed,’ In-School Learning is Not Safe”

  1. Avatar
    On July 22, 2020 at 8:19 pm responded with... #

    It is outrageous that we are closing school for 6 months now with NO attempt to consider opening school earlier. MCPS and Dr. Gayles should be ashamed of themselves. I can’t believe that they don’t have a shorter timeline at which they would consider opening schools. The most important question is how low is low enough? That has not been announced. It is outrageous.

  2. Avatar
    On July 22, 2020 at 9:22 pm responded with... #

    As if MCPS and Dr. Gayles caused this problem? You know there is a dangerous pandemic going on. If you close your eyes and pretend it isn’t there, it won’t go away. Use your noggin. They are using theirs!

  3. Avatar
    On July 23, 2020 at 9:42 am responded with... #

    I’m glad to see MCPS/Dr. Smith and Dr. Gayles speaking to the community with one voice and one message. It was very confusing and destabilizing when we seemed to be getting different messages from MCPS than from our County health department and other County leaders.

  4. Avatar
    On July 23, 2020 at 4:29 pm responded with... #

    Open Schools!

  5. Avatar
    On July 30, 2020 at 11:15 am responded with... #

    Open Schools! This is ridiculous! Listen to the AAP and CDC! Our numbers in Montgomery County are good and we are hurting our school system by allowing our children to fall farther behind in their academic growth. Virtual learning will never be as good as in person! Children 18 and under account for 7% of infection and the death rate is 0.01%. This is crazy!!! The pros to sending outweigh the cons to holding this children out of school! WAKE UP!!!

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