Parents → Getting started in MCPS (the basics) → School Basics
Important School Information
All schools send home an information packet in the mail during the summer that includes bus routes, school hours, suggested supplies, the school calendar, and other information related to the upcoming school year.
Additionally, look for important information and forms that are sent home during the first few weeks of school and throughout the school year. Some papers require parent or guardian's signature and must be returned to the school. Examples include emergency information forms, your school's discipline policy, application for free and reduced-price meals, directory information withholding form, and field trip permission forms. Also, check your school's website for news and updates.
Information from your child's school is provided in many ways:
- Letters and flyers are sent home with students in their backpacks or are mailed to the home.
- The school's website can be accessed through the Schools page.
- Principal and PTA newsletters are sent or mailed home; many schools also post the newsletters on the school's website.
- Many schools have listservs that parents can join to receive announcements about events and share questions and answers about school-related issues.
- Principals use Connect-ED to send automated telephone messages from the school.
All schools hold Back-to-School Night shortly after the beginning of school. This event gives you a chance to meet your child's principal, teachers, and other school staff and learn about what your child will be learning in school in the coming year.
School Closings/Delayed Openings
Due to weather conditions or other emergencies, schools may be closed all day, open late, or dismiss early. A delayed opening means that schools open two hours later than scheduled. All buses operate on a delayed schedule and, therefore, the pick-up times are two hours later than normal. An early dismissal means that schools will close 2.5 hours earlier than scheduled. In this case, all buses operate on an early schedule and, therefore, drop-off times are 2.5 hours earlier than normal.
Talk with your child to be sure he or she knows your family's arrangements for an early dismissal. When afternoon and/or evening activities are cancelled in school buildings, extracurricular programs, athletic practices, PTA meetings, and similar events will not be held.
Changes to the school schedule are announced via:
To be successful, students need to attend school regularly. Acceptable reasons for missing school include the following:
- Illness of student (doctor's note may be required in case of extended absence)
- Death in immediate family
- Court summons
- Religious holiday
- State emergency
- Permission from the principal (to visit a college campus, interview for a job, work under certain circumstances)
- Lack of authorized transportation (the school bus does not come)
Family travel is normally not considered an excused absence, except in unusual circumstances and with approval from the principal.
Whenever your child is absent, you must send a note to the school within three days of your child's return. Otherwise, the absence will be considered unexcused. In middle and high school, attendance is taken in every class.
Absences are recorded on the report card in elementary, middle, and high school. School counselors and pupil personnel workers are available to assist families in situations where students are having difficulty with school attendance. Students are responsible for making up any work missed during an absence, regardless of the reason for the absence; talk with your child's teacher or guidance counselor if you have questions about making up missed work.
Students arriving at school after the start of the school day must sign in at the office. To be excused, all late arrivals must be explained in a note signed by a parent. Three unexcused tardies (late arrivals) is equivalent to one unexcused absence in high school. Tardies are recorded on the report card at all grade levels.
Early Pick Up
Only parents and/or persons authorized in writing by parents may pick up a child from school. Parents may designate these other individuals on the emergency information card completed at the beginning of each school year. Parents also may send the school a note authorizing a specific individual to pick up their child. Schools typically contact parents by telephone to confirm such arrangements. Schools may ask the individual to show a photo identification card before releasing a student.
To ensure a safe and orderly learning environment, all Montgomery County public schools follow discipline guidelines described in A Student's Guide to Rights and Responsibilities. Certain infractions result in required disciplinary action throughout the school system. Violations of the law will be reported to the Montgomery County Police Department.
Offenses for which students WILL BE recommended for expulsion:
- Bomb/facsimile possession or bomb threats
- Evidence of intent to distribute or distribution of intoxicants
- Possession of firearms, including starter guns
- Violent physical attack on a student or staff member
- Weapons used to cause bodily harm/injury
Offenses with a range of consequences, including suspension or expulsion:
- Academic dishonesty or plagiarism
- Computer abuse
- Destruction of public property
- Possession of a knife
- Possessing other weapons
- Physical attack on a student
- Physical attack on a staff member
- Possession or use of intoxicants
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual offenses
- Sexual activity (consensual)
- Threat (verbal, electronic, or written)
- Verbal abuse
- Gang-related incident
Suspension means your child will not be allowed to attend school or take part in school activities for a specified time. An expulsion is the act of excluding a student from participating in the educational program for an indefinite time, with or without specifying a time for seeking readmission to MCPS.
Each school also has a local disciplinary plan that students are expected to follow. These school-based plans include rules and consequences for violations such as fighting, disruptive behavior, and using obscenities, among others. A student who breaks the rules may be suspended and/or lose the privilege of participating in special school functions such as field trips and graduation ceremonies. Staff, students, and parents are involved in the development and review of local plans each year. Contact your school if you are interested in participating on the discipline committee.
MCPS does not tolerate bullying. Students who are being bullied, or who witness other students being bullied, should immediately report this to their teacher or to the school counselor. Parents with concerns about bullying should consult with the counselor or principal.
Parents and students should also be aware that the possession of "look alike" guns and weapons (e.g., water guns, play weapons) is not permitted and violations are taken very seriously.
Students are expected to wear appropriate clothing to school. Clothing that offends others or disrupts learning is inappropriate. Clothing that includes references to gangs, drugs, alcohol, and sex is not acceptable.
High school and middle school students may have cell phones or other portable communication devices on school property and at school-sponsored activities, but may not turn them on or use the devices during class time. These devices must be kept out of sight. Students should be reminded that setting the device to "vibrate" is not the same as turning the device off.
Elementary school students are not permitted to have cell phones or other portable communication devices at school during the school day unless a written request from a parent is approved by the principal. Exceptions may be granted based on factors such as safety or medical concerns. Other factors may be considered at the discretion of the principal.
Field trips are sometimes taken to support a topic students are studying. Parents are notified of field trips and must sign permission slips in order for their children to participate. A small fee is usually required to cover the cost of the bus transportation for field trips and students usually are asked to bring lunch. Financial assistance is available if needed.
Extracurricular Activity Fee
Middle and high school students who participate in sports or clubs pay a $30 annual extracurricular activity fee. The form to pay the fee is mailed to the student's home. Check with your school if you have questions about which activities require this fee.
The $30 fee can be paid by mail, in person at the Carver Educational Services Center, or online with a credit card. Families with a gross income below $35,000 qualify for a reduced ECA fee of $15, which can be paid by mail or in person at the Carver Educational Services Center; the online option is not available if paying the reduced fee. If you are not able to pay the activity fee, contact the head of the physical education department.
Media centers, which used to be called libraries, have a wide collection of books and materials that students can borrow. Students must return books by the due date stamped on the books. Media centers have computers, printers, and other equipment that students use to do research and learn technology skills. Most media centers, especially in middle and high schools, are open before and after school for students to do research and complete assignments.
Computer Use and Internet Safety
Students are given a personal login and password to access the computers in computer labs, the media center, and in classrooms. Computer rules in schools are explained to students and they receive a copy of the guidelines at the beginning of the year. School computers are to be used for school work only; access to sites such as Myspace and Facebook is not allowed.
As required by the Children's Internet Protection Act, MCPS has procedures in place to shield students from inappropriate materials on the Internet. These include blocking access to known sites that contain questionable material and teaching students about the appropriate use of the Internet and the consequences for failing to act responsibly. Students are supervised when using the Internet at school.
All Montgomery County public libraries also have computers that students can use; Internet terminals in the children's areas of the branches are equipped with filtering software to screen content.
Address and Phone Number Changes
Families who move must notify their child's school. It is important that the school have your current address and phone number so you can be reached in case of an emergency. Students whose families have moved within the county who wish to continue attending their former school should request a change of school assignment. Such requests will be given preference for the remainder of the current school year only. Students in grades 11 and 12 are allowed to stay in their former school through graduation.