Community Update From MCPS for January 4

by Patrick Herron
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Per Montgomery County Public Schools:

Dear MCPS Community,

We hope that you had a restful winter break. As the number of COVID-19 cases increases across our county, state and the nation, we want to assure you that we are committed to a safe learning and working environment for students and staff. This message summarizes the actions Montgomery County Public Schools will take in the coming weeks to address the impact of rising positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

COVID-19 Positive Case Data
Through 6 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 3, there were 5,680 positive cases reported among MCPS students and staff during winter break, including a one-day increase of reported cases on Sunday, Jan. 2.  You can view the number of positive cases over winter break at each school at this link.

Daily Data Monitoring
The number of positive cases reported at each school each day will be posted at the top of the COVID-19 Dashboard by 7 p.m. each school day, beginning Wednesday, Jan.  5. The dashboard will continue to report data on total positive cases and quarantines on a weekly basis. It is critical that families and staff continue to report positive cases via this form. You may also call your school if you are not able to submit the information electronically.

Individual School Transitions to Virtual Learning
In-person learning remains the default format for schools in MCPS. However, the Maryland Department of Health has stated that if 5% or more unrelated students/teachers/staff test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period (minimum of 10 unrelated students/teachers/staff), a discussion regarding whether a school should move to virtual learning for a 14-day period will be triggered. Please note that the 5% threshold does not automatically result in school closure; the primary factor to consider is the level of virus spread in the school.

Parents and guardians will be notified if a decision is made to transition to virtual learning. MCPS intends for schools that transition to virtual learning to return to in-person learning after the defined 14-day period of virtual instruction.

Considerations for Deciding Whether a School Will Transition to Virtual Learning
Key factors that are considered when deciding whether a school will transition to virtual instruction include the number of students testing positive; the number of staff testing positive; the number of students in quarantine; the number of staff at the school who are out due to COVID-related absences; and the level of spread of the virus in the school and community.

In addition, MCPS must take into account operational factors including the availability of classroom staff, bus drivers and food service employees.

COVID-19 Levels in Schools

In order to identify the levels of COVID-19 in each of our schools, MCPS has sorted schools into three, color-coded categories – green, yellow and red.

green circle

Green
In schools that are categorized as green, under 3% of students and staff have reported testing positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

yellow circle

Yellow
In schools that are categorized as yellow, over 3% and under 5% of students and staff have reported testing positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days. The heightened levels of COVID-19 in these school communities mean they are approaching the 5% threshold that would put them in the red category.

red circle

Red
In schools that are categorized as red, over 5% of students and staff have reported testing positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

When schools reach the 5% threshold – and enter the red category – MCPS will then confer with DHHS about the best next steps, including the possibility that the school transitions to 14 days of virtual learning. The transition to virtual learning is not automatic.

Virtual Instruction—Scheduling and Planning

  • If a school goes into virtual learning, the virtual school day will begin and end at the same time as in-person learning, and the instructional schedule/block will be very similar to the typical in-person school day.
  • Teachers will deliver all virtual instruction in a live format (synchronous).
  • There may be a few adjustments to the amount of time spent in each class to allow for appropriate screen time breaks and lunch.
  • On the first day of the 14 calendar days of virtual instruction, MCPS staff will prepare for live instruction. Teachers may give students independent (asynchronous) work to complete on this one day.
  • Elementary teachers will ensure that each student has a Chromebook, as well as a login and password for accessing materials on Canvas.

MCPS remains committed to keeping all staff and students safe and continues to provide high-quality learning experiences for our students.

Testing and Vaccinations
Rapid tests: MCPS will provide rapid tests from the county to every student in every school, starting with the schools with elevated levels of COVID-19 — those schools that are in the yellow or red categories, where at least 3% of staff and students have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Providing tests to students for at-home administration will keep the school community safe by revealing the true levels of COVID-19 in these school communities and removing any students who are positive from the school environment.

  • Say Yes to the Test
    Parents must give their permission for in-school testing. They can do so by completing this form. For more details, please visit our “Say Yes to the Test” website.
  • Increased Testing in MCPS
    MCPS is working with its testing vendors to increase the capability of random and rapid COVID-19 testing in schools. This will occur in the coming days and weeks.
  • Get the Shot
    MCPS continues to partner with DHHS to provide school-based, free vaccination clinics for students. Often the same clinics can provide adult first, second and booster shots. More information is available on the vaccinations website or on the DHHS website.

 

Social-Emotional Concerns
This is a difficult time for everyone in our community. The Omicron variant is highly contagious. The pandemic remains a source of anxiety and fear for many and MCPS is committed to providing resources to support students, staff and families as we move through the pandemic. Schools will have counselors and psychologists available and all staff are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Programfor support and resources.

Important Resources

Transportation
High positive case rates may occasionally impact bus driver availability. Every effort will be made to fully staff all routes in the coming days; however, drivers having to drive more than one route may lengthen travel times and delay routes in the mornings and afternoons. Should you have any questions about your child’s bus route or need to report a problem, the transportation depot numbers are:

Thank you for your support as we work to provide a safe environment for students and staff.

Montgomery County Public Schools

Other Resources

  • Detailed information for athletics programs can be found here.

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