Montgomery County Public Schools: Possible In-Person Schooling in Early 2021

The Montgomery County Board of Education met Friday, Nov. 6 to discuss, among other issues, to consider returning students to in-person classes in stages early next year.

In a letter to parents, Dr. Jack R. Smith, MCPS Superintendent wrote:

“As we shared with you on Oct. 27, MCPS has developed a health indicator grid for resuming face-to-face teaching in stages. This grid was developed in consultation with Montgomery County health officials, and it also complies with the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If these indicators are met, MCPS will resume face-to-face teaching in stages starting from Jan. 12, 2021, with emphasis on specific special education programs; certain vocational and technical education programs that require practical learning to obtain a license; and other special student groups.”

If the health indicators continue to be met, other students will be returned in phases.

“I want to emphasize that we can only implement this plan when these health indicators are met.” he continued. “We have heard from many people in the community that they hope that we will start to provide face-to-face learning in December. Perhaps you have seen or heard from the news that the number of cases in Montgomery and Maryland are on the rise, and the current figures do not support the resumption of face-to-face teaching for students at this moment.

“We will continue to work closely with Montgomery County health officials and other county leaders. They understand and agree with the urgency of getting students back to school as quickly and safely as possible.”

When students and faculty do return to school, building operations will look different, Dr. Smith wrote.

“Students and faculty must wear face masks; keep physical distance; and wash hands frequently. MCPS also invested a lot of resources as needed to improve the air quality in the school buildings and update the system.”

In anticipation of reopening schools in early 2021, MCPS will email parents a short survey on Nov. 11 to determine whether their children will continue to participate fully in virtual learning, or whether they will participate in a blend of face-to-face and virtual teaching. Both options would allow students to participate in face-to-face sports and extracurricular activities. The survey also asks parents to clarify whether their children need school bus services provided by MCPS. Parents are asked to return surveys by Dec. 3.

After the surveys are complete and analyzed, MCPS will use the information to design teaching and location modes and provide scheduling information for parents who choose face-to-face teaching.

The notification process will begin in January after school staff have planned for the needs of face-to-face instruction.

“It must be pointed out that given the … restrictions and rationing of faculty and staff related to COVID, the teaching methods that students receive after returning to school may vary,” Smith wrote. “MCPS is striving to recruit more teachers and support staff that we need to provide effective and consistent face-to-face learning. Face-to-face learning will be combined with direct support, learning in a mixed virtual and face-to-face classroom, or learning entirely in a pure face-to-face classroom.

“Depending on the results of the parent's willingness survey, the following situations may occur: students may have different teachers; alternate between face-to-face and virtual teaching every week; or they are not arranged at their home school. These results will be determined by the parents' willingness to learn face-to-face and the allocation of faculty and staff. Face-to-face learning will include direct support, participation.”

“We will open Special Education Evaluation Centers in Hallie Wells [Middle School, Clarksburg], Sligo [Middle School, Silver Spring] and Julius West [Middle School, Rockville] on Dec. 3, and families can make appointments to receive support from Monday to Friday. These evaluation centers will provide student families with the opportunity to participate in face-to-face educational and psychological evaluations to determine initial and continuing special education qualifications.”