by Jay Joseph ‘22
MCPS evaluated and approved a provisional plan to prepare for a partial in-person reopening. However, based on the tentative criteria given for in-person learning, it seems unlikely that more than a few students will return for in-person instruction during this school year.
The Parent Preference Survey MCPS emailed to parents will play a major role in deciding how schools will reopen; from transportation to judging which students are in each group for the gradual return to in-person learning.
The survey provides questions, pros, and cons to consider when making one’s decision about partial in-person learning during the second semester. The survey will ask two questions: 1) whether the student prefers in-person learning and 2) if the student will need transportation provided by MCPS to attend. Each student must complete their individualized survey by December 3. If the student gives no response, the student will automatically participate in virtual-only learning. Changes to the selection can only occur under unique circumstances, and families will receive details on the next steps of reopening early January.
MCPS’s criteria, while changeable, will most likely only allow limited in-person attendance for Student Special Populations (specific special education and CTE programs) and consideration for partial in-person for Group 1 this school year. Group 1 includes kindergarten, first grade, sixth grade, freshmen, priority seniors (those who need in-person instruction to graduate), and more specific special education and CTE programs.
By the MD Calculation Model for the 14-Day Average New Case Rate, Montgomery County has not gone under five new cases per 100,000 people since April 6, three weeks after schools closed and the county was in Phase 1. The closest the county got to this requirement to phase in all students for partial in-person learning was August-end at 6.4 new cases per 100,000 people. However, when Maryland entered Phase 3 of reopening around the same time, the rate began to increase again.
Considering the spike in cases that shows no sign of stopping yet, the record high of 28.7 new cases as of November 27, and the highest new case rates since the pandemic began, no trend indicates that more than a small percentage of students can attend partial in-person instruction this year. Current requirements to phase in Groups 1, 2, and 3 will most likely not be met.
MCPS explained that they made this plan to prepare for when in-person learning was viable and accepted that the county was “[w]ell out of the window for returning to in-person instruction,” according to Derek Turner, MCPS’s Chief of Engagement, Innovations, and Operations.
MCPS Covid-19 Dashboard: https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/coronavirus/dashboard/