Important Video Update from MCPS
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Dear Parents, Guardians, Students and Staff:
Since we released the MCPS Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover draft guide on July 11, we have heard from thousands of parents, students and staff. You have written, called and posted on social media platforms to share your thoughts, questions and concerns as you’ve reviewed the draft options. As I promised in my July 11 message, MCPS is committed to hearing from and working with the community to address these concerns and questions over the coming days and weeks. Our draft plan represents our current thinking and will be adjusted, refined and revised going forward based on feedback and public health conditions.
Our goal for the 2020-2021 school year is to provide high-quality instruction and learning experiences for all MCPS students, whether virtually or in person. And while we hope to be able to bring back as many students as possible for in-person instruction on a consistent basis in the coming months, we cannot and will not do so until we have received clearance from state and local officials who continue to review local and national data very closely. We will continue to work diligently on our plans while we await final decisions from the county’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, County Executive March Elrich, the Governor and the State Superintendent of Schools.
Here is what we know. Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon will provide an update on plans for schools next week. On August 6, the Montgomery County Board of Education will make a tentative decision about when MCPS schools might resume a face-to-face model for instruction. School will begin on August 31 for all MCPS students and staff. ALL students will start the school year virtually with dynamic and rigorous virtual instruction. While we do not know how long we will be in this initial virtual model, we will take direction from and collaborate closely with our state and local health officials and monitor ongoing public health conditions to make the best possible decision for our school district.
We need to continue to prepare for the day that school will resume in some sort of face-to-face model. We have a vast number of children who need to be in school physically—students with disabilities; students who receive language acquisition services; students who need additional support in literacy and mathematics; students who are in great need of the structure that school provides for their physical, social and psychological well-being; students who are experiencing poverty; and the list goes on. In short, all students need school. But let me be clear, no face-to-face instruction will resume until we have been cleared to do so by state and local officials.
Below are important clarifications and updates based on the concerns and questions we’ve received from you over the last week. We know that the pandemic and the uncertainty and disruption it has caused is creating a great deal of stress and anxiety for our community. Please know that we hear you. We are reading your messages and posts and are working quickly and collaboratively to navigate this incredibly challenging and complex situation. There is no perfect plan, only difficult choices. We ask for your collaboration and patience as we work through this. I encourage you to visit our Fall Recovery webpage to find the most accurate and up-to-date information on our planning.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
MCPS will continue in Phase 1 of the Return to R.A.I.S.E. plan, which provides guidance for the virtual engagement of out-of-season activities and prohibits in-person activities, through August 11, 2020. All in-person summer conditioning and activities are cancelled through this time. Updates regarding the status of fall sports and program operations beginning August 12, will be provided by the end of July. Decisions will be made in alignment with state and county health guidelines. The latest information and updates regarding the operations of the MCPS interscholastic athletics program are available on theCOVID-19 Athletics Information section of the MCPS Athletics webpage.
Health and Safety
If we are allowed to return to school buildings, we will do so in the safest manner possible to ensure that we are absolutely doing all we can to reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. MCPS has spent millions of dollars over the last few months ordering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer, soap and other cleaning supplies.
MCPS will provide face coverings for staff and student use. MCPS is purchasing as much inventory as possible in a range of types of face coverings. Both reusable and disposable face coverings will be available. Please note, even with the significant number of face coverings we are purchasing, with 166,000 students and 24,000 staff members, we won’t be able to purchase enough to support the use of disposable face coverings for the entire system every day. We will need to rely on multiple approaches and on students and staff to use reusable face coverings when appropriate and feasible. If you are hearing that MCPS has said we will only provide a specific number of face coverings for staff and students for the entire year, that is not true. I want to be clear that face coverings will be required every day and we will need your help to reinforce this message and prepare your children for this change. We want to make sure all students and staff are safe and that students are given a chance to learn how to operate in this new normal.
Regarding hand sanitizer, we are buying as much as we can in different forms. While touchless dispensers are difficult to purchase right now and many businesses and school districts across the nation are facing the same shortage, there are many options for providing hand sanitizer. We will purchase as much as possible in a range of dispensers to serve all schools and offices. Hand sanitizer will be available throughout our buildings.
Cleaning of School Buildings
MCPS building service workers will have an increased presence and facility responsibilities. All schools and offices will be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis. At the same time, teachers and students will also need to contribute to caring for their areas and cleaning of their supplies and spaces throughout the day. Increased ordering of disinfecting wipes and other cleaning materials that teachers can use to clean areas and materials throughout the day and in alignment with guidance will support this effort. We have to work together to keep each other safe.
Staff and Family Choice
MCPS staff will have flexibility to decide if they need to work remotely as it pertains to their specific circumstances. It is important to understand, however, that the need for flexibility must be balanced with the needs of our students and school system. We understand that there are employees who are immunocompromised, or may be caregivers for family members who are immunocompromised, and will be unable to physically return to the classroom for some time. We also understand that many members of our staff also have unique circumstances that may prevent them from working inside of a building during the pandemic. That is not the case for everyone. When we return to buildings, we will ensure all appropriate health and safety measures are in place to keep your students and staff safe.
As we also shared on July 11, families will have a choice on whether their child(ren) will engage in a Blended-Virtual Learning model or Virtual Only. Those details are being finalized and we will provide updates as we work through the process.
We believe that on average, keeping in line with physical distancing guidelines, we will be able to accommodate 12 to 15 students in a classroom. Please note that this is our initial calculation. This number is likely to vary from classroom to classroom to match the specific configuration of the space and to ensure that we meet physical distancing guidelines.
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