Dear Parents, Guardians, Students and Staff:
This afternoon (Nov. 6), the Board of Education met to discuss MCPS’ recovery of education plan and considerations for the phased-in return to schools. If you were unable to watch the meeting live, you can watch the presentation here and view the PowerPoint presentation here .
As we shared on Oct. 27, MCPS has developed a health metrics grid for a phased-in return to in-person instruction. The grid was developed in consultation with Montgomery County health officials and is aligned with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If these metrics are met, MCPS will begin a phased-in return to in-person instruction beginning January 12, 2021, with a focus on specific special education programs; certain Career and Technology Education programs that require hands-on experiences for licensure; and other special student populations. If health metrics continue to be met, larger groups of students will begin phasing in on February 1, 2021, the start of the second semester.
View the full proposed timeline and phasing groups for the second semester here.
I want to stress that we can only move forward with this plan if health metrics are met. We have heard from many members of the community who want us to begin providing in-person learning in December. As you may have seen or heard on the news, cases in our county and across the state are rising and the current numbers do not support a return to in-person instruction for student groups at this time. We continue to collaborate closely with the county health officer and other county leaders. They understand and share our sense of urgency in getting students back in buildings as soon as possible and as safely as possible. We also receive guidance from state health officials, the governor’s office and the state superintendent of schools.
A Safe Return to School Buildings
As we shared in the summer, operations in school buildings will look different when students and staff return. Students and staff will be required
to wear face coverings; physically distance; and engage in regular hand-washing. MCPS is also investing significant resources to enhance air quality in buildings and upgrade systems, as needed.
Parent Preference Survey
On November 11, parents will be asked to complete a short survey to indicate whether their child will remain exclusively in a virtual learning environment or engage in a combination of in-person and virtual instruction. Both options would allow students to participate in in-person athletics and extracurricular activities. Parents will also be asked to indicate if their child needs MCPS-provided transportation.
Notification Schedule to Parents Selecting an In-Person Experience
Once the Parent Preference Survey window closes, an analysis of the in-person demand by location will be conducted. The information will be used to design the instructional delivery models and the locations of the models, and will inform the notification schedule to parents who select the in-person experience. Schools will be instrumental in the design work to ensure we meet the needs of students whether families choose to remain in the virtual delivery model only or elect a combination in-person/virtual experience. Schools will also communicate their design models and confirm schedules with parents who indicated a preference for an in-person experience. This communication process will begin in January once school staff has planned for in-person demand.
It is important to note that how instruction will be delivered once we return to buildings may be differentiated for students, given COVID-related capacity restrictions and staff availability. MCPS is working diligently to secure additional teachers and support staff needed to provide an effective and cohesive in-person learning experience. In-person experiences will include a combination of direct supports, learning in a virtual and in-person combined class, or a fully in-person-only classroom.
Depending on the results from the Parent Preference Survey, there may be instances where students may have different teachers; rotate between in-person and virtual instruction weekly; or not be placed in their home school. These outcomes will be driven by parent preference for in-person learning and staff availability. In-person experiences will consist of direct support, engagement and instruction.
Special Education Assessment Centers
On December 3, we will open special education assessment centers at Hallie Wells, Sligo and Julius West middle schools, where families will be able to receive support by appointment Monday through Friday. These assessment centers will provide families opportunities to participate in in-person educational and psychological assessments to determine initial and ongoing special education eligibility.
COVID-19 Employee Portal
MCPS will launch a streamlined employee portal that will host information and resources on safety, training, and how to apply for accommodations and/or leave aligned with state law, federal law and CDC guidance.
The Board is expected to take tentative action on the return framework on November 10 and vote on a final plan on December 3. The Board of Education will also return to in-person meetings beginning January 7, 2021.
Virtual learning has been incredibly challenging for many students and families, and it is absolutely critical that we get students and staff back in buildings so we can provide the instruction, support and services they need. We are committed to doing so in a safe and reasonable manner. COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future and we must continue to re-imagine how we operate as a system to meet the needs of our students. Thank you for your continued support and cooperation as we work through these complex details. To share your thoughts and feedback with us on the proposed framework, please visit www.mcpssubmitfeedback.org.
Jack R. Smith, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools