The earliest Montgomery County Public School students will return to the classroom is Feb. 1 and that only will occur if the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate is 5% or below and there are fewer than 15 new cases for every 100,000 residents, the Board of Education unanimously agreed Dec. 15.
Tuesday, the positivity rate was 6.1% and the average number of cases during the past seven days was 43.7 per 100,00 residents.
The board also unanimously agreed that when those health metrics are met, students would return to the classroom according to a phased in system, starting with students with special needs, followed by elementary school students and students in the career and technical education program.
As the pandemic abates, students not yet in the classroom, including high school students, will be able to come to a building themselves or in very small groups if they need of extra help or are in danger of failing.
Once the health metrics are met, the school district expects to open all its buildings and have a health professional in each building, explained Janet Wilson, chief of the Office of Teaching, Learning and Schools. Transportation will be provided.
Teachers will be given professional development to learn the best practices of staying safe when returning to the classroom, McKnight said. Each school will use its instructional leadership team to work out the best methods, she said.
The BOE will meet again Jan. 12 to review the current health metrics and opening status.
The board also discussed the family preference survey, for which 76.7% of the students responded. Those who do not respond will default to virtual learning only. Of those who did respond, it was pretty even between those who want to be in the classrooms and those who would opt to remain at home.
Once students begin returning to the classroom, MCPS may have to alter a student’s home school temporarily to ensure that there is enough room for proper social distancing and other health concerns in every classroom. However, Smith said, all students will still be considered a part of their normal school and will return there as soon as possible.
Prior to the board’s discussion, 13 people addressed the board virtually in previously-recorded messages, with the vast majority urging the board to open the classrooms now. Max Weiner, a fifth grader, told the board he “always liked school” but since it went virtual, “it all kind of went downhill” and continues to worsen.
.@mocoboe tentatively approved the plan for a phased-in return to in-person instruction on Feb. 1, beginning with students in special education programs, elementary school students, and students in identified career technology programs. pic.twitter.com/jBI4gk76nI
— MCPS (@MCPS) December 15, 2020