April 21, 2021
Dear Parents, Guardians, Staff and Students:
During its April 20 business meeting, the Board of Education discussed the reopening of schools and MCPS’ ongoing recovery efforts. To date, more than 60,000 kindergarten–Grade 12 students have returned to in-person learning. Our staff and students have done a tremendous job during this transition adjusting to new procedures and safety protocols. We have heard from the community how happy students are to be back in buildings with opportunities to connect with peers, participate in sports and other activities. Many MCPS families opted to remain virtual and those students continue to receive engaging instruction. We know this is not a traditional school experience and we are thankful for the resiliency of our community.
Here are six things you need to know from the Board meeting and what’s ahead:
Schools are working to clear waitlists and will continue to use A/B rotations for the remainder of the school year. Schools are working closely with families to bring students from waitlists to in-person instruction. These lists represent students who selected in-person instruction after the official survey closed in December 2020. While we are able to make progress on waitlists, eliminating the weekly rotations would significantly impact the student experience and schools’ ability to maintain students’ classroom teacher assignment and schedules. It would also require more staffing at all levels. The availability of space is also a critical factor as distancing guidelines are being maintained to ensure the safety of students and staff. Schools will use more flexible spacing guidelines in their buildings when possible to help accommodate more students in person. It is important to note that while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated their classroom distancing guidance from 6 feet to 3 feet, there are a number of areas where 6 feet of distancing is still recommended. The Board has asked MCPS to look into the possibility of using Wednesdays, which are currently virtual learning days for all students, as in-person learning days for students.
MCPS is planning for a full, in-person five-day week schedule for students in the fall. The 2021-2022 school year is expected to be a more typical school year for our students and staff. Continued improvements in public health conditions, an increase in vaccinations, and a relaxation of restrictions will allow for more students in-person and the resumption of typical in-person activities and instruction. We will continue to work closely with local, state and national public health officials to follow recommended health and safety protocols while welcoming staff, students and families back to school buildings. We will continue to plan for a successful reopening in the fall and will share regular updates with the community over the summer.
Participating in school-provided COVID-19 testing keeps us all safe. COVID-19 pool testing is continuing across the district on a rolling basis. At this time, elementary schools are being prioritized for testing. To help keep schools and one another safe, please complete your consent form and return it as soon as possible. You can view the April testing schedule here. The May calendar will be posted online the week of April 26. As a reminder, COVID-positive cases for students and staff participating in person are tracked and reported. Notifications are sent to the entire school community when there is a reported positive case of COVID-19 involving staff and/or students who have been on site during the contagious period (defined as the two days prior to developing symptoms or testing positive). A school community would not be notified for cases involving staff or students who have tested positive, but have not been on-site (such as cases over spring break or cases with staff or students who are virtual only and have not been on-site). In addition, we do not send community letters when a student or staff member is in quarantine due to exposure and has not tested positive. Next month, MCPS will launch a new dashboard and data collection system that will include information on staff and student cases. It will be located on the MCPS website.
MCPS will maintain accelerated courses at the elementary, middle and high school levels. National research shows that mathematics achievement has been impacted during this pandemic more than any other content area in K-12 education. MCPS has developed a long-range plan to address this learning loss. More information about the MCPS mathematics plan will be shared at the May 25 Board of Education meeting.
The MCPS Virtual Academy will launch in the fall and will provide a year-long fully virtual option for students in prekindergarten-Grade 12. While virtual learning during the pandemic has been difficult for many students, others have thrived. The flexibility to learn and work online has provided opportunities that support many family needs and the social-emotional needs of some students. For these reasons and more, MCPS is planning to build and improve online learning options. Parents and students will have an opportunity to complete a Virtual Academy interest survey in the coming days. This will not be a commitment to attend the virtual academy and does not guarantee admission; it is only to gauge family interest. More information on how to apply for the Virtual Academy will be shared with the community soon.
All high schools will have outdoor graduation ceremonies. MCPS is collaborating with the Montgomery Department of Health and Human Services to secure a waiver to allow for a maximum of two guests per graduate. Schools will provide families with specific information about their ceremonies in the coming weeks. Additionally, due to current restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings in Montgomery County and the limitations associated with hosting outdoor events at elementary and middle school sites, MCPS is recommending virtual promotion ceremonies for 5th and 8th grade students. Schools are working to determine additional ways to safely recognize and celebrate 5th and 8th grade students in-person.
There are seven weeks left in this school year and we are committed to finishing strong. Thank you for your continued support.
Email us: ASKMCPS@mcpsmd.org