MCPS Community Message: Eleven Things You Need to Know for January 20

by Patrick Herron
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Per MCPS:

The ten things to know for this week include information about the shift of 16 schools to virtual learning for 10 days, declining transportation disruptions, substitute teacher compensation, a planned student walkout, maintaining current quarantine guidelines and more.

  1. Sixteen MCPS schools have moved to virtual learning for 10 calendar days. After an assessment of multiple operational and health factors, the following schools will participate in virtual learning from Jan. 20 through Jan. 29. This decision was made with feedback from teams of school-based leaders and parent representatives. The schools will return to in-person learning on Monday, Jan. 31.

    The schools are:

    • Beall Elementary School
    • Briggs Chaney Middle School
    • Brookhaven Elementary School
    • Clopper Mill Elementary School
    • Capt. James E. Daly Elementary School
    • Gaithersburg Elementary School
    • Glenallan Elementary School
    • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School
    • Lakelands Park Middle School
    • Neelsville Middle School
    • Paint Branch High School
    • RICA – John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents
    • Sargent Shriver Elementary School
    • Twinbrook Elementary School
    • Watkins Mill Elementary School
    • Whetstone Elementary School

    Moving forward, if any additional schools are going to transition to virtual learning, MCPS will make the announcements on Fridays, and then virtual learning will start on Mondays. No additional schools will be announced this week.

  2. MCPS is expanding the availability of virtual instruction. MCPS has committed, on a case-by-case basis, to offer virtual instruction to students who are not in quarantine but have concerns about attending school due to COVID-19. Families interested in this option should contact their child’s school, and the absences will be excused. This option will be available through Monday, Jan. 31, and may be extended.
  3. Transportation disruptions continue to decline.Unserved bus routes have declined from a high of 8% impacted routes to less than 0.5%. As of Jan. 19, there were 12 unserved bus routes (out of more than 1200). Thank you for your patience as we have worked to return to full service.
  4. To address staffing challenges, MCPS has increased compensation and provided other guarantees for substitute teachers. In an important step towards continuing in-person learning, MCPS will increase salary rates for substitute teachers, effective this month. With these increases, MCPS leads the region in most categories of substitute teacher pay. Interested individuals can apply to be a substitute teacher here.
  5. Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight shared COVID-19 management plans with the Montgomery County Council this week. On Jan. 18, Dr. McKnight provided an overview of the school system’s plan and responded to council members’ questions. The session can be viewed here. On Jan. 19, Dr. McKnight and school system leadership engaged in a question-and-answer session with the Council’s Education and Culture Committee that can be viewed here. Topics in the sessions included mitigation measures to keep schools safe, the criteria that MCPS is using to decide whether schools should transition to virtual learning, the importance of focusing on addressing learning disruption that the pandemic has caused, and requests for additional testing and contact tracing support.
  6. Equity Hubs will provide safe in-person experiences for PreK through Grade 5 students in schools that have transitioned to virtual learning.Virtual learning may pose a challenge for families whose children need a safe place to learn while their parents work, cannot access virtual learning from their home or who need a more structured learning environment. The Black and Brown Coalition and The Children’s Opportunity Fund have partnered with childcare providers to establish Equity Hubs as a solution.

    Families whose children are engaged in virtual learning can register for all-day child care and support during virtual instruction at one of 103 Equity Hubs across Montgomery County.

    Eight of the elementary schools entering virtual learning this week have partner childcare centers and will be registering students to begin on Friday, Jan. 21. MCPS pupil personnel workers will also reach out to families to help with information and the registration process. MCPS will expand these opportunities in the coming weeks to make this resource available to more families who need it. For more information, please follow up with your child’s school. Families who are interested in this opportunity can also contact their school counselor.

  7. Student leaders in several MCPS high schools are planning walkouts on Jan. 21 to express their sentiments regarding COVID-19’s impact on their school experience. MCPS recognizes that the pandemic has dramatically affected students’ educational experiences and supports students’ desires to voice their concerns as part of engaging in civic life.

    Students have been encouraged to work closely with their school’s administrators to develop a plan that will provide them an opportunity to express their views while remaining safe on campus.

    Please speak with your child to let them know that leaving school property without permission or walking out of class outside of the designated time will be considered an unexcused absence.

    All staff, including system leadership, are committed to engaging students in conversations regarding how to improve their educational experience; a recent example of this type of dialogue between Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight and Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney can be found here.

  8. KN95 masks are being provided for students. KN95 masks for students have been delivered to secondary schools, and child-sized KN95 masks for younger students have been ordered and will be delivered to schools as soon as they arrive. We strongly encourage students and staff to wear them when inside MCPS facilities, where masks continue to be required.
  9. Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight was featured on a live online question-and-answer session hosted by the NAACP of Montgomery County Parents’ Council and the Black and Brown Coalition for Educational Equity and Excellence.On Jan. 19, Dr. McKnight addressed questions from the community regarding COVID-19 response, access to rigorous coursework, the antiracist audit, opportunity gaps, recovering learning from the pandemic, cultural competence and staff diversity. Dr. McKnight appreciated hearing the community’s experiences in MCPS schools and committed to working together to strengthen educational opportunities. You can watch a replay of that meeting here.
  10. There is no change to student isolation or quarantine guidelines at this time. Although Montgomery County has revised recommendationsconcerning quarantine and isolation, MCPS is maintaining its current guidelines. As shared in a community message on Jan. 9, a decrease in the transmission or outbreak of the virus will guide whether the number of quarantine and isolation days may be reduced.
  11. Make-up days have not been determined for recent inclement weather days. There have been four inclement weather days this month, and we will need to make up three of them based on the days of instruction in our school-year calendar. Plans for making up these days will be shared with the community in the coming weeks. The professional days scheduled for Monday, Jan. 24, and Tuesday, Feb. 1, will continue as planned.
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