by Avery Prudenti and Emory Gun ‘22
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the closures and possible re-openings of schools have been a main focus in the news. MCPS has declared that all of its schools will be online for at least the first semester. Many private schools in Montgomery County such as nearby Our Lady of Good Counsel High School have also decided to start the school year virtually. However, other Montgomery County private schools, including St. John’s Episcopal School, have decided to begin in-person learning. Because MCPS is all-online for at least the first semester, families may desire to take their children out of public schools, and put them into private schools that are offering in-person classes.
St. John’s Episcopal School, a K-8 school located on Route 108 in Olney, decided to open its doors to students instead of hosting virtual classes. The school created a plan that began on September 8, which has students attending classes five days a week, unlike many other schools that are doing a hybrid, slow opening.
“ [Enrollment] is the same as last year. It would have been significantly larger, but we had to limit our class sizes to take into account the CDC social distancing requirements.” said Douglas Perkins, the Director of Admissions at St. John’s. Because they have decided to go in-person, families all over the county have attempted to get into St. Johns, but many people forget to take into consideration that most in-person schools will have to limit their student population to be allowed to open. This being said, many of the students who were accepted have had very positive feedback towards the school, according to Perkins. St. Johns has put procedures into place, including exposure protocols and live-streaming options, to make the students and teachers feel as comfortable as possible when returning to school.
Another private school, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS), in Rockville, has started the 2020- 2021 school year with Grades 1- 12 starting all online. However, Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten are doing in- person school. Both Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten are Early Childhood Programs, which the Maryland State Department of Education has allowed to reopen following certain guidelines.
“The School has received a tremendous amount of positive feedback since the start of the school year,” stated Director of Marketing and Communications at CESJDS, Laurie Ehrlich. “Whereas we were operating in an emergency-type situation in the Spring, we were able to refine our operating procedures as it relates to virtual learning over the summer and our teachers engaged in a great deal of professional development to refine their virtual teaching craft.” Ehrlich said that CESJDS is considering feedback from the county and state official feedback when making decisions regarding returning to in- person classes. When asked about how enrollment has been affected, Ehrlich said, “We are still enrolling students as we speak!”
There are many factors as to why parents are deciding to send their kids to in-person school instead of sticking with schools that are going online for the semester. Many children around the county are struggling academically and emotionally with online school, because it does not provide the same satisfaction as attending school with friends and teachers normally would. A parent of two former MCPS students who transferred to St. John, Diana Litton, stated that her children had, “A hard time staying engaged and focused on content, became disengaged in school, and seemed to not enjoy learning as much as they had in the past.” As well as online school being a problem for some students, it is also difficult for parents. Now that the country is slowly opening back up, more parents are returning to work. Working parents are unable to help their kids with online school, and need a place to send their kids during the day. In-person schools offer this opportunity to parents, and it is one of the main reasons why many families are enrolling their students in schools with in- person classes.