by Bryan Kim ‘23
The MCPS Board of Education has recently assessed and approved a plan to start a hybrid model of learning for the second semester. Once certain health metrics are met, MCPS will begin a phased-in return to in-person instruction. MCPS will start by integrating students who are in specific special education and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs back to in-person learning on January 12. If health metrics are continually being met, larger groups of students will phase-in starting on February 1. The Board recently raised the possibilities of changing the health metrics and to put more emphasis on younger children returning to in-person instruction.
If in-person instruction does begin next semester, core safety protocols will be strictly enforced throughout MCPS. The safety protocols include: limited capacity in school buildings, health screening protocols for all students and staff, required face coverings, available hand sanitizer, and mandatory six feet social distancing. Signage will be placed throughout buildings to enforce protocols.
“The county will be sending school PPE equipment/supplies for staff and students to use,” said Principal Tim Britton. These include “masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, possible eye goggles and other coverings.” Teachers and staff will be required to have these supplies readily available throughout the building.
Many building preparations and schedule changes will be made in order to uphold the core protocols for safety. “If and when it is decided that small groups will start to come back, schools will have to come up with a plan with the help and guidance of local CDC officials on student movement throughout the building, entrance and exit areas, lunch procedures, restroom visits, arrival and dismissal to name a few,” explained Britton.“There will be county guidelines specific to schools based on the structure and numbers.”
Air quality in buildings is another critical issue that needs to be addressed. MCPS requires that all schools have updated heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems that meet the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards. Outside ventilation is an effective way to dilute indoor contaminants and control air quality. Portable air cleaners will be placed where needed.
Schedule changes are necessary due to Sherwood’s large population of 1,940 students and 200 staff members. Sherwood will need a schedule that effectively reduces student movement from class to class throughout the building. Britton believes that “we would need to address the 1-lunch period that we have had in the past.”
MCPS does have a positive COVID case response plan. If there is a confirmed positive case with staff members, Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be notified immediately. Areas and facilities where staff members worked will be disinfected and closed if necessary.