Montgomery County Public schools sent out the following community message from MCPS Medical Officer Patricia Kapunan, M.D. on Thursday, August 25:
Dear MCPS Community,
We are so excited to be back together next week for the new school year! As we return to shared spaces, the health and wellness of our students and staff remains a top priority. We have more tools, experience and knowledge than ever to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 in our school community. Here are some important things to know about vaccination, testing and masking as staff and students return to school:
COVID-19 Vaccination Helps Our School Community
Vaccines are an important way to lower individual risk of severe complications from COVID-19 infection. A high vaccine coverage rate helps reduce the overall burden of COVID-19 on the school community and helps keep learning going, as individuals with milder symptoms will miss fewer school or work days. We continue to strongly recommend students receive all recommended COVID-19 vaccines and boosters for which they are eligible. At this time, COVID-19 vaccination is required for staff unless approved for a medical exemption. We will continue to provide opportunities for students, staff and family members to receive COVID-19 vaccines atafter-school and weekend events.
Rapid Testing for COVID-19 for a Strong School Year Start
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is encouraging at-home rapid testing for COVID-19 as staff and students return to school. Testing is an important way to identify individuals actively positive for COVID-19 who should temporarily isolate in order to prevent further transmission and keep our school community as healthy as possible.
End-of-summer activities, such as returning from travel or getting together with larger groups, can increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Staff and students may consider testing even after school begins, following Labor Day holiday travel or after higher-risk social events that may coincide with the start of the school year. Testing is not mandatory. We are depending on our staff and families to consider their exposure risk, and test and report positive results accordingly.
Test kits will be available at schools, at the MCPS Annual Back-to-School Fair on Aug. 27, and upcoming school-based weekend vaccination clinics on Aug. 27 and Aug. 28. Free rapid test kits are also available to Montgomery County residents at most public library locations, or by mail for home delivery from the U.S. government. Only positive test results need to be reported using theMCPS COVID-19 Reporting Form. Individuals who have a positive COVID-19 test should report their positive result and follow CDC guidelines for isolation.
As of today, the CDC COVID-19 Community Risk Level for Montgomery County is “low.” At this time, masking is not mandatory in MCPS buildings or buses in most situations. Health room staff actively engaged in patient care or anyone assisting with medical procedures must follow infection control guidelines from the DHHS and the CDC, including wearing a mask when required.
In addition, masking may be temporarily required for individuals or groups, in certain circumstances:
- A student develops symptoms of COVID-19 during the school day and presents to the health room for evaluation
- A student has tested positive at school for COVID-19 and is awaiting pick-up
- In outbreak situations, as an alternative to quarantine for exposed individuals who do not have symptoms of COVID-19
- For students or staff recovering from COVID-19 who have completed at least five full days of isolation, and feel well enough to return to school or work.
Recommendations and requirements for masking can be expected to change during the school year, as COVID-19 data trends and science change. For individuals who cannot safely mask, other prevention measures will be used.
Please remember that all staff and students are supported in their decision to wear a mask for individual protection, at any risk level. MCPS will continue to provide masks for staff and students for use during the school day.
The new school year is just around the corner! Let’s work together to keep our school community well, as we return with excitement, renewed purpose and joy.
Patricia Kapunan, M.D.
MCPS Medical Officer