MCPS Message About How to Stay Safe During Winter Break

by Patrick Herron
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Per MCPS:

Dear MCPS Community,

As positive cases continue to rise, the risk that the COVID-19 pandemic poses remains strong. In response, we are asking our community to Remain Vigilant and to continue to follow the guidance from local health officials to help keep you safe and healthy. Vaccines, face coverings and social distancing are safe, easy, simple and necessary steps to keep the number of cases low.

Important Note:

Montgomery County Public Schools remain open to in-person instruction. Although case numbers are rising, preserving the in-person learning environment remains the best course of action for our students. Following winter break, we intend to return to fully in-person instruction as scheduled on January 3.

Continue to report positive cases:

Maintaining a safe environment when we return to school on Jan. 3 also means knowing and responding to positive student cases. If your child does test positive for COVID-19 during winter break, please report that to MCPS. The way to do that is by using this electronic form.

Positive Case Numbers are Rising:

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Montgomery County, in line with trends that we see in many areas of the country. In recent weeks, the number of positive COVID-19 cases among MCPS students and staff has been on the rise. Between Dec. 1 and Dec. 19, MCPS has recorded 1,196 positive cases. By comparison, from August 31st through November 30th there were a total of 1,155 cases–meaning that the district has experienced more positive cases in the last three weeks than in the first three months of the school year. This is an alarming trend that requires action.

Will MCPS close schools?

There is no plan to close all MCPS schools.  To ensure the safety of students and staff, we will be following DHHS guidance around individual school outbreaks as defined by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).  Beginning in January, if 5 percent or more of unrelated students/teachers/staff (minimum of 10 unrelated students/teachers/staff) test positive in a 14-day period, then DHHS and MCPS will work together to determine if the school should be closed for 14 days and the students transition to virtual learning.

Being prepared in the event of a quarantine:

Should the guidance indicate that a student, class or school need to quarantine and temporarily learn virtually it is important to be prepared. For winter break students should:

A Call to Action:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has been asked of our students and staff. As an institution, we are grateful for all you have done in the face of this pandemic. Due to the efforts of everyone in our community, we have been able to return to in-person learning five days a week. However, rising positive case numbers have required restrictions for athletics and extracurricular activities. This alarming trend also calls on all of us in Montgomery County to recognize the seriousness of this trend and to remain vigilant in our adherence to this simple list of health and safety strategies.

Here is what you can do:

  • Get the shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and available for everyone ages 5 and older.
  • Get the booster shot–The third shot to ensure you are sufficiently protected is now available for everyone 16 and above.
  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth whenever you are in an MCPS building or in public buildings.
  • Wash your hands frequently before and after eating or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Say Yes to the Test– Give permission for the random and rapid COVID-19 screening programs in MCPS schools. This is critical to identifying cases and reducing the number of students in quarantine.
  • Socialize outdoors. If you meet with others indoors, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. See more recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Planning to travel? Know what the CDC has to say about how to do that safely. Know what the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services says about travel and protecting yourself. If you do travel, upon your return it is recommended that you get a COVID-19 test. More information here

Many of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue. It has been a long road. But it is crucial that we continue practicing the preventive behaviors that have helped to keep our community safe.

Throughout the last nearly 20 months, it has been heartwarming to see how the Montgomery County community has adapted to pandemic mitigation strategies and adopted the vaccine in significant numbers. It has not been easy, but we have continued to move forward. We must maintain our efforts to keep our community safe. We must remain vigilant! We must do this together.

MCPS has partnered with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through the pandemic, and their recommendations have guided MCPS for the past 21 months. Should guidance for families or staff change, MCPS will communicate those changes in a timely manner.

Best wishes for a healthy holiday season.

Dr. Monifa B. McKnight
Interim Superintendent
Montgomery County Public Schools
Dr. James Bridgers
Acting Chief Health Officer
Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

Important Resources

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