MCPS responds to Omicron

by Emory Gun ‘22

Updated Jan. 11

MCPS put out an updated statement on its website on January 9 addressing the steep rise in Covid cases and announced that all schools will distribute KN-95 masks and rapid test kits to all students. Results from the rapid tests should be reported by January 14, through the MCPS Covid-19 Reporting Form, whether positive or negative. Additionally, “Any student who tests positive will be required to isolate for 10 days from the date of the positive test, or 10 days from the onset of symptoms, whichever is earlier.” 

Other updates were that MCPS is dropping the 5-percent threshold for a school to go virtual for 14 days. Originally the 5-percent protocol meant that “if 5 percent or more of unrelated students/teachers/staff (minimum of 10 of these individuals) tests positive in a 14-day period, a determination will be made as to whether the school should be closed for 14 calendar days and transition to virtual instruction. Please note that the 5 percent threshold does not automatically result in school closure; the primary factor to consider will be the level of the spread of the virus in the school.” MCPS scrapped the protocol after more than 125 schools exceeded the 5-percent infection rates. Guidelines for staff who test positive were also updated. Staff must quarantine for five full days if they have tested positive. The five days start either from when they first have symptoms or five days after they are confirmed to be positive if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.

 Additionally, the January 9 MCPS message announced that all in-person extracurricular activities will be able to return on Tuesday, January 18, and all participants must submit a rapid test result by Friday, January 14. The letter also addressed the bus driver shortage caused by Covid, stating that there will be updates every evening and additions in the morning about affected routes. 

Prince George’s County Public Schools moved to online school on December 20 and plans to return to in-person school on January 14. In recent days, major school districts across the United States, including Atlanta, Milwaukee, Detroit, and Newark, have announced temporary stoppages of in-person learning. In Chicago, the school district ended a standoff last week with teachers after they voted through their union not to return in-person until more safety measures are put in place to protect staff and students.

Originally, on January 4 MCPS announced that the following schools will return to virtual learning for at least two weeks because of high transmission rates: Rock Terrace School, Cannon Road ES, North Chevy Chase ES, Hallie Wells ES, Monocacy ES, Forest Knolls ES, Waters Landing ES, Rosemont ES, Sherwood ES, Roberto Clemente MS, and Seneca Valley HS. Principals reportedly have been directed by MCPS Central Office to create class schedules for virtual instruction in preparation for more school closures. Despite the 5-percent protocol being dropped, these 11 schools will stay virtual until January 18, “out of recognition that many families have made plans based on the information provided…” 

The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), which represents teachers, has made it clear that they feel that MCPS is unprepared for in-person classes with the protocols currently in place. The MCEA wants more protection such as an appropriate supply of KN-95 masks for both staff and students, more frequent opportunities for testing, and more accurate and clear information regarding case numbers and shortages. 

Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight of MCPS also apologized in the January 9 message for lack of clear communication and said that she is now in quarantine after testing positive for Covid.