MCPS Officials Discuss Special Education Reopening

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) board members and officials discussed the possibility of allowing small groups into schools for in-person learning at a school board meeting Tuesday.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith was very clear that the discussion is not an indication that any in-person learning is happening soon.

“This is in no way a signal that we’re going to do this immediately, or next week, or in the next three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We don’t know when that is,” Smith said. He said MCPS officials will present a recommendation to the school board about in-person learning when they have one.

On Sept. 24 Gov. Larry Hogan announced that all 24 Maryland jurisdictions have state-approved plans to bring at least some students back into school buildings this fall. MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said MCPS is working on possibly bringing back small groups of students with specific needs like those in special education programs.

MCPS is looking at opening three special education assessment centers, said Kevin Lowndes, Associate Superintendent for Special Education. He said in-person formal achievement and psychological assessments are still required under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The school system is considering one assessment center in the upcounty region, one midcounty and one downcounty. Lowndes said MCPS will call families to see if they are comfortable bringing their child in for assessment.

All special education staff will receive professional development training before re-entering the classroom, Lowndes said. Staff members in specific programs who work with bodily fluids and with students who demonstrate challenging behavior will receive more training. Staff in those programs will be trained on how to safely interact with students who need close contact, like those who need personal care and students who may need to be restrained.

“We have a training that we feel very confident in, in working with our students and focused on de-escalation, but also with an understanding that some of our students might have to be restrained at some point and we want to do it in a very safe manner,” Lowndes said.

Special education staff who work with challenging behavior, direct personal care, hygiene support and fluid contact will be provided with PPE to include a face shield, closed goggles, surgical mask and gloves.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27.

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About Maryam Shahzad

Maryam is a reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism. Previously, she was an intern with MCM. She can be reached at mshahzad@mymcmedia.org or on Twitter @maryam_mcm.

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