by Evan Joseph ’23
As this academic year comes to an end, questions surrounding the upcoming school year are starting to arise. Just what will fall 2021 look like while there is still so much uncertainty? MCPS, along with the Maryland State Board of Education, has outlined plans for a significantly higher number of students to return in-person for a more normal five-day school week.
A return of most students to classrooms will be a dramatic shift in Maryland, where approximately 58 percent of all students still are all-virtual this spring, according to the Washington Post. Additionally, MCPS has one of the lowest percentages of in-person learning in the state, with just 19 percent of students in school buildings (although the Washington Post reports that the county disputes that figure). State Superintendent Karen Salmon says there is an “urgent need” for students to return to the classroom, and the Maryland Board of Education passed a resolution on April 27 stating that all schools must permit five days a week of in-person learning in the Fall.
The plan set by MCPS is for a 5-day a week in-person with a virtual option available by application only. Recently, the Board of Education has made some modifications to the in-person learning system being used now, stating in its MCPS Community Update that “Schools will use more flexible spacing guidelines in their buildings when possible to help accommodate more students in person. It is important to note that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their classroom distancing guidance from 6 feet to 3 feet, there are a number of areas where 6 feet of distancing is still recommended.”
MCPS has also released key information regarding the return of school next fall in its latest Community Update. Regarding the plans for the return to school this upcoming fall, “The 2021-2022 school year is expected to be a more typical school year for our students and staff. Continued improvements in public health conditions, an increase in vaccinations, and a relaxation of restrictions will allow for more students in-person and the resumption of typical in-person activities and instruction. We will continue to work closely with local, state and national public health officials to follow recommended health and safety protocols while welcoming staff, students, and families back to school buildings. We will continue to plan for a successful reopening in the fall and will share regular updates with the community over the summer.”
As the circumstances keep changing, MCPS has had to adapt its protocols to provide the best school environment for both students and staff. In a Business Meeting Agenda on May 11, Associate Superintendent of Operations Essie McGuire detailed the reopening plan with its new adjustments: “The Montgomery County council also did amend the Board of Health regulation regarding reopening, and has added phases of reopening that relate to the percentage of the population that is vaccinated and has at least received one dose of the vaccine.”
MCPS has also made adjustments to improve the graduation experience for the class of 2021. For Sherwood specifically, families are allowed to bring a third guest now, and there is no longer a mask mandate. These adjustments are just another way that MCPS has been able to adapt to the current CDC recommendations in order to provide better experiences for its students and staff.