When Will Those Montgomery County School Bells Ring?

Now that we have rung in the new year and the COVID-19 vaccine is becoming available, will Montgomery County Public Schools return to in-class instruction soon?

Most likely, the answer is no.

In a Dec. 15, 2020 statement, from the Montgomery County School Board said in part, “Delay of Return to In-Person Learning WHEREAS, The Board of Education is committed to the health and safety of the Montgomery County Public Schools students, staff, and community; and WHEREAS, On November 10, 2020, the superintendent of schools proposed a framework for a safe return to in-person learning that would begin for special student populations on January 12, 2021, if health metrics are met; and WHEREAS, The Board of Education has adopted a health metrics framework that was developed in collaboration with local health officials, and is aligned with the Maryland guidelines framework, that provides guidance for a safe return to in-person instruction; and WHEREAS, Current and forecasted COVID-19 health metrics do not indicate that Montgomery County will reach the health metrics established by the Board of Education; now therefore be it RESOLVED, The Board of Education delay the return of students for in-person instruction until February 1, 2021, on the condition that established health metrics are met; and be it further RESOLVED, The Board of Education will meet on January 12, 2021, to determine if health metrics can be met by February.”

The caveat is, “Current and forecasted COVID-19 health metrics do not indicate that Montgomery County will reach the health metrics established by the Board of Education.”

The BOE Dec. 15 “Reaffirmed the health metrics threshold of a 14-day new case rate below 15 cases per 100,000 residents and the test positivity rate below 5 percent.”

These metrics are aligned with those recommended by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Current metrics are moving farther away from those determined by the Maryland State Board of Education for safe school opening.

The Montgomery County COVID-19 Surveillance website reports the County with “a very high risk of transmission” with 41.3 cases per 100,000 based on information from Jan. 3.

That is many more than the BOE determination of 15 cases per 100,000 needed for opening schools.

Test positivity rate is 7.6 percent, well above 5 percent.

Karen B. Salmon, Maryland Schools Superintendent, requested that the Maryland Department of Health, “include teachers, school staff and early childcare professionals as the first priority in the plan to start COVID-19 vaccinations for essential employees in Maryland.”

“Prolonged school closures have resulted in our children experiencing diminished academic achievement and social-emotional distress,” she also said in her statement.

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