COVID-19 Information → Spring 2023 Reopening Guide
Read the Reopening Guide
Dear Parents, Guardians, Students, and Staff:
I am pleased to share the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Fall 2022 Reopening Guide. This guide provides a comprehensive update on the district’s return to in-person instruction, five days per week for all students. The guide also summarizes the district’s current COVID-19 operational guidance determined in collaboration with state and local health officials.
This guidance aligns with my three priorities, which have driven our successful start to the 2022-2023 school year:
Each decision we make about how we are working to support an environment that is successful in providing excellent teaching and learning must reflect these goals. Through this work, we will advance our students in their academic careers, ensuring a brighter future for our community.
All schools have opened at full capacity for in-person instruction with a teacher in every classroom, a visionary administrator leading every school and support staff providing critical wraparound services and support for our students and communities. Schools are following usual bell times, class schedules, and extracurricular activities. At the release of my recommended operating budget on December 19, 2022, everywhere I go, I hear and see how better this school year feels -- with students getting involved, reengaging in their school community, and embracing school as a home.
Considering that the COVID-19 virus is still impacting our community, we must remain vigilant as we continue in-person instruction. Core health strategies such as staying home when sick, ventilation/indoor air quality enhancements, and layered mitigation strategies to prevent transmission, remain essential in fighting COVID as well as other respiratory infections.
We are faced with a time of great opportunity for our school system, inspired by what we learned during the pandemic and stronger because of the resiliency that sustained us through its tumult. We must, however, continue to recapture a sense of normalcy in support of our schools, students and staff.
I have appreciated the "all together now" spirit through which our community has banded together to ensure our students receive high-quality instruction and supports this school year and beyond.
Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
MCPS' core principle of equity is embedded throughout the district's planning and decision-making. The following Evidence of Equity questions informed the district's fall planning efforts.
Which racial/ethnic groups are currently most advantaged and most disadvantaged by the practice or decision?
How are they affected differently?
Who is missing and how can they be engaged?
How have they been informed, meaningfully involved, and authentically represented in the development of this practice/decision?
Which racial/ethnic groups could be negatively affected?
How could adverse impacts be prevented and what provisions will be changed or added to ensure positive impacts on racial equity and outcomes?
What data points are we using and not using in this decision?
How will results and outcomes be documented and communicated to all stakeholders?
Are diverse identities and perspectives (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, education level, roles/positions) represented and informing the implementation of the practice or decision?
Read the full Equity Plan for Return to Schools here.
The Antiracist System Audit final report was presented to the Board of Education and community on October 11, 2022. MCPS created a series of next steps to address the findings including work sessions for district and school leaders, community conversations with student, community, and staff associations, and mandatory professional learning for all district leaders. A comprehensive action plan will be shared with the Board in May 2023. Antiracist System Audit
MCPS leadership has begun to address the report findings by participating in professional learning on how to be antiracist leaders. A 60-member Antiracist Districtwide Implementation Team is engaging with students, staff and families who are participating in facilitated, structured conversations to review the findings, analyze data and prioritize district-level action steps.
All principals have received resources and support to develop family engagement plans that meet the needs of their school communities. The resources include:
Community Engagement Policy
MCPS schools will maintain their normal, pre-pandemic bell times for the 2022-2023 school year.
Normal, pre-pandemic transportation routes and capacity will continue for the 2022-2023 school year. Families have been notified of the bus routes for their assigned school. This information may also be found on the MCPS website at montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/. Select the school from the menu and access the Bus Routes document.
Students are not required to wear face coverings on school buses, but this is subject to change based on community transmission levels and guidance from public health authorities.
Bus drivers will clean and disinfect buses daily. When feasible, considering weather and other safety considerations, bus drivers will keep the windows open to increase air circulation and decrease the likelihood that the virus is transmitted.
During daily pre-trip safety inspection of buses, bus drivers and bus attendants will ensure COVID-19 safety supplies, such as extra masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning/disinfecting supplies, are available. Bus drivers and bus attendants continue to be trained on the latest COVID-19 safety protocols during in-service training, two-way radio announcements, newsletters and direct interaction with supervisors.
Schools, in conjunction with the Montgomery County Police in some cases, are working to accommodate more parents dropping off and picking up their students. The Montgomery County Safe Routes to School Program is encouraging the formation of Walking School Buses to offer families another option for getting students to and from school.
MCPS continues to focus on creating the conditions for a safe and conducive learning environment for students and staff. Increased mental health and well-being supports, expansion of safety and security services, and implementation of the Community Engagement Officers program are essential to creating these conditions during the 2022-2023 school year. MCPS has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to increase mental health supports in target schools and social workers have been trained and assigned to each high school. MCPS has expanded safety and security staffing including hiring Security rovers who will enhance school safety services at elementary schools. This will also be the first full year of implementation of the Community Engagement Officers program, developed in partnership with the Montgomery County Police department and in collaboration with multiple community stakeholder groups, to provide safety services while addressing students' needs for social-emotional and health supports.
As students and staff return to school for the 2022-2023 school year, MCPS remains committed to safely and equitably providing in-person learning, as well as prioritizing the physical and mental health and well-being of students and staff. Regulatory requirements, guidance from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) and Maryland Department of Health (MDH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics continue to inform MCPS’ reopening planning efforts.
MCPS will continue to implement a multi-layered health and safety protocol that includes everyday health strategies to prevent illness, in addition to specific COVID-19 mitigation strategies depending on community transmission and local risk factors. Specifically, MCPS will implement the following health and safety practices in schools and offices.
Basic health practices including staying home when sick, hand-washing and covering mouths when coughing or sneezing remain critical tools in preventing spread of illness in schools. Additional core health strategies are detailed below.
Trained building service staff will continue to regularly clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in MCPS facilities. Special attention will be given to door handles, light switches, sink handles and other surfaces that are touched frequently. Restrooms in common areas will be cleaned and disinfected more frequently throughout the day. Approved disinfecting/sanitizing products will be used by staff, and students will not participate or be directed to assist by using disinfectant wipes or other hazardous chemicals. Staff may use approved wipes, but all common home products should not be used in MCPS buildings.
MCPS strongly recommends eligible students and staff members to remain up to date on CDC recommended immunizations that protect against infectious disease. In collaboration with DHHS, MCPS has provided additional school-based access to COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for students, staff and families, focusing on impacted communities and Title I schools, by providing frequent and free vaccination clinics at schools and in the community. MCPS currently requires staff to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination or documentation of a medical exemption. Employees granted a medical exemption must submit to regular COVID-19 testing.
MCPS has taken these steps to improve ventilation and ensure the health and safety of students and staff:
Regular hand-washing will be encouraged whenever students are in school buildings. Hand sanitizer will be provided to students and staff, with sanitizing stations placed throughout the buildings.
Additional layered strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools will be implemented based on CDC community levels and in local, higher risk situations. Additional COVID-19 mitigation strategies are detailed below.
According to the Maryland State Board of Education, masks are no longer mandatory in Maryland public schools and local school districts may decide how to use masks to maintain safe, in-person learning. The CDC recommends universal indoor masking at the high community risk level when Covid-19 transmission is high in the community-at-large and in healthcare settings (including school nurse's offices). Masks will be made available to all staff and students, and supported for individuals who choose to wear a mask at any COVID-19 community risk level. Masking may be temporarily recommended or required in local outbreaks, high-risk situations, or, more broadly, when COVID-19 community transmission is high.
School administrators will be provided ongoing support to ensure effective systemwide implementation of health and safety practices.
In alignment with updated MSDE/MDH guidance, MCPS is no longer conducting universal contact tracing for individual cases of COVID-19. Staff and families receive notification of an exposure if there is an identified case of COVID-19 in a high-risk cohort situation or local outbreak. MCPS will collaborate with DHHS to support outbreak investigation according to state and local regulations for outbreak-associated COVID-19 cases in schools. MCPS continues to make reported COVID-19 case data available to our staff, students and community on our COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard is updated daily based on reported cases and reflects cases both at the individual school and office level as well as system wide data for the school year.
For the 2022-2023 school year, schools will not operate dedicated isolation and triage rooms. MCPS will ensure students who have tested positive for COVID-19 during the school day are able to mask and physically distance themselves from others while waiting for prompt pick-up.
The CDC no longer recommends routine screening testing in K-12 schools. MCPS will leverage and support screening testing in higher risk situations, including school-based outbreaks and at strategic times related to high-risk activities, large gatherings or following school breaks with a high volume of travel. In collaboration with Montgomery County DHHS School Health Services, MCPS will continue to support testing of students who present with COVID-19 symptoms during the school day. As testing and isolation of COVID-19 positive individuals is a core strategy in supporting safe in-person learning, MCPS continues to support equitable access to testing, and and strongly encourages staff and students to self-report positive COVID test results on the MCPS reporting tool.
MCPS will return to pre-pandemic classroom capacity and spacing. While the CDC encourages school districts to implement physical distancing to the extent possible, it cautions against implementing distancing requirements that would lead to the exclusion of students from in-person learning. Schools may use outdoor spaces, when feasible, for lunch and unmasked educational and social experiences for students.
Following updated guidance from the CDC and MSDE/MDH, regardless of vaccination status, quarantine is no longer recommended for people exposed to COVID-19 except in certain high-risk congregate settings. Students identified as close contacts of individuals positive for COVID-19 may continue in-person learning as long as they are asymptomatic and follow procedures for masking, testing, and for individuals who develop symptoms after a close contact exposure. Additional strategies may be recommended for individuals who are unable to safely mask. Staff or students who test positive for COVID-19 should follow CDC recommended isolation guidelines.
The MCPS Department of Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) resumed regular meal services during the 2022–2023 school year.
Beginning this year, students in Maryland who qualify for reduced-price meals will not be charged for breakfast or lunch meals.
Beginning this year, we will return to using FARMS forms and require students to either scan a card with a barcode on it or enter their pin number to access their lunch account. Rather than a unique pin number, students will use their student ID number. The student ID number is also the students log in to access their Chromebook.
Free and Reduced-price Meals System (FARMS) Eligibility Data and Application Process: The FARMS application has been updated. Interested families must reapply each school year. Online applications are the preferred application method and schools should strongly encourage families to apply online at www.MySchoolApps.com. Families can apply now.
Students will be able to eat breakfast and lunch in cafeterias and other available eating areas. Schools are encouraged to take advantage of outdoor spaces when possible so that students can eat in areas that pose a lower risk of virus transmission. High schools may return to open campus lunch.
While the top priority is providing in-person instruction five days per week, MCPS is engaged in ongoing contingency planning to address potential COVID-19--related issues that may arise throughout the school year.
If a student positive for COVID-19 needs to isolate or miss school due to illness, MCPS will strive to minimize disruption to student learning during this period.
The Board of Education will not close school buildings and/or move to fully virtual instruction unless ordered to do so by state government officials or the local health department. If officials order reduced capacity in school buildings, elementary level students will be provided with check in opportunities throughout the day. Resources will be delivered through Canvas. At the secondary level, students will receive tasks aligned to classroom learning through the Canvas platform. Check-in opportunities with content teachers will be provided throughout the day.
After a review of multiple factors, a school may be moved to virtual learning for five calendar days in the interest of the overall school community’s health and safety. The decision to pause in-person instruction involves the examination of a number of key factors; these key factors are taken into consideration with each individual school’s unique characteristics that range from specific programs to operational readiness. Individual school communities will receive a letter announcing the change and some of the specifics that helped inform the decision for that individual school.
The key factors used in this decision include:
To prepare for this change in operations, teachers will have one day of preparation where students will participate in remote asynchronous learning. Full virtual, teacher-led instruction will then take place. Families will receive information, guidance and resources for what to expect in virtual learning. Childcare programs may continue as scheduled.
Contingency plans for instruction will only occur if the school system is required by an authorized county or state government agency to reduce capacity in school buildings as a result of health conditions in the county or state.
MCPS’ core purpose is to provide a strong academic program that helps all students to thrive in their futures. During the 2022-2023 school year, MCPS will continue to address learning disruption and implement support plans to ensure all students are performing on level. The district has developed multi-year plans to ensure all students can access and receive support for any pandemic-related missed content. Guidance, support and professional learning will allow teachers to build a solid foundation focused on missed or condensed instruction. As teachers are planning lessons, they will focus on addressing core standards and student needs in alignment with the PreK-12 Maryland College and Career Ready Standards (MCCRS) and State Standards.
Time is included in the instructional schedules for intervention and support at the elementary and secondary levels. In addition, students who demonstrate significant gaps in learning will have the opportunity to participate in an after-school tutoring session or receive support from external partners.
The MCPS Mathematics Program is designed to challenge students of all levels. The goal is for students to successfully complete Algebra 1 in Grades 7, 8 or 9, as appropriate, and be prepared for higher-level mathematics in high school, including Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. Adjustments are being made to the plan to address missed content due to the pandemic. What are the Guiding Principles of the Mathematics Recovery Plan?
To view the plan, please click here.
For the 2022–2023 school year, MCPS will return to pre-pandemic grading policies and procedures outlined in MCPS Regulation IKA-RA, Grading and Reporting. However, based on lessons learned in the 2020–2021 and 2021–2022 school years, when grading procedures were revised as a result of the pandemic, additional guidance is being provided to schools to build on those experiences, respond to student and community interests, and highlight best practices and expectations for the 2022–2023 school year.
MCPS will also return to pre-pandemic expectations for implementation of credit recovery, attendance intervention and grade modification.
Each morning, parents and/or guardians should check on their children’s health. If a child is showing any COVID-19 symptoms, parents and/or guardians should keep the child at home and contact their medical provider. Positive tests should be reported through the MCPS reporting tool. Attendance policies that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic will be reestablished and implemented. Please reference MCPS Regulation JEA-RA: Student Attendance. This includes the taking, recording and reporting of daily attendance, tardies, excused absences and unexcused absences. For elementary schools, attendance will be taken each day at the beginning of the school day. For secondary schools, attendance is taken each period and calculated to compute a daily attendance code.
Attendance is taken by teachers and recorded in Synergy, the student information system. This data is visible to parents through ParentVUE, the parent portal. When a student is marked absent, an automated ConnectEd call alerts the parent/guardian that the student is absent. This allows for quick intervention and escalation if needed. Daily attendance reports are run at the local school level so that leaders can review attendance patterns and identify students who may need support in attending school regularly. During the first three weeks of school, central office staff will also monitor attendance daily to identify students who have not returned to school and to plan outreach processes to families. A number of student-level and aggregate reports at the school and district level are used to monitor attendance and provide quick intervention as needed.
The Attendance Reopening Guidance document provides an explanation of the process coordinated by Student and Family Support and Engagement and the Office of Special Education to provide specific outreach and implement targeted interventions for students with consistent attendance and engagement concerns.
MCPS Evidence of Learning Framework
MCPS MTSS Intervention Guidance is used to define the intervention process in MCPS. Read More
During the 2022-2023 school year, all schools evolved their Student Well-Being Teams to address students who had difficulty attending or engaging with school, students who experienced social-emotional difficulties, and students and families in need of school system and community resources. Key members of the Student Well-Being Teams are school administrators, school counselors, pupil personnel workers (PPWs), social workers, school psychologists, parent community coordinators (PCCs), and Emergent Multilingual Therapeutic Counselors (ETCs). Student Well-Being Teams analyze data, conduct root cause analyses, and implement targeted interventions.
MCPS has created a Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) platform in Synergy. The MTSS platform will enable schools, and the district to monitor and evaluate the interventions implemented for students in the areas of social-emotional support, behavioral support, and attendance. Student Well-Being Team members in all 210 schools were trained on the MTSS platform in the fall of 2022. The platform will have a soft rollout during the second semester of the 2022-2023 school year. Summer professional learning will occur in advance of a full MTSS platform rollout for the start of the 2023-2024 school year.
MCPS COVID-19 Self Reporting Form
Synchronous instruction is provided every day to students in the Virtual Academy. Students are expected to attend class every day. Attendance is taken daily in accordance with MCPS policy and in alignment with in-person instruction. Elementary teachers take attendance once a day in the morning, and secondary teachers take attendance at the beginning of each class period. Secondary period-by-period attendance is aggregated to compute a daily attendance record which is logged in Synergy, the student information system. The Virtual Academy has two well-being teams, one at the elementary level and one at the secondary level. These teams meet weekly and analyze attendance and engagement data on all students. They identify students who need additional outreach and develop processes and plans for supporting students. All PPWs support the students in the Virtual Academy. Because students are still enrolled in their home school, counseling staff at the virtual academy partners with counseling staff at the home school to provide coordinated support and services.
To continue meaningful and ongoing stakeholder engagement in the reopening and recovery process, MCPS initiated the District Strategic Initiatives Implementation Team (DSIIT) during the 2021-2022 school year and will continue this work in the 2022-2023 school year.
DSIIT members include representatives from parent and community organizations, employee associations, and school and cross-office staff. Members work in project teams, led by staff and community advisors, and meet regularly to provide input on reopening and recovery plans in key areas, feedback on implementation, and share thinking for future actions. Project teams include:
MCPS will communicate with students, staff, families and community stakeholders about its Return to School for 2022-2023 plan prior to and throughout the school year.
The MCPS Office of Communications is responsible for developing, administering and monitoring the effectiveness of communications and outreach for the Return to School Plan. The responsible individual for that office is Christopher Cram, Director of Communications. The office can be reached in the following ways:
Schools have a choice in implementing either a one-to-one model or a cart model for student technology. Most of our secondary schools have adopted the one-to-one model, in which students are assigned a Chromebook and case. They will be expected to carry it from school to home each day. This device will be used at school and home to complete instructional tasks.
In the cart model, sets of Chromebooks are kept in each classroom for use during the school day. Most of our elementary schools have adopted this model. Students who attend these schools who need access to a Chromebook at home can check one out at no cost and leave it at home for use during the school year. If avoidable damage or loss occurs, the student and family will work with their school to repair/replace the device. When the repair/replacement cost is assessed and paid, a replacement or repaired device or device will be issued. Details about the repair/replacement program will be provided to schools for dissemination to families.
Students who do not have access to the internet at home can continue to use the Mifi hotspots provided by MCPS for home use. The Chromebooks and Mi-Fi hotspots are Children’s Internet Protection Act compliant and have filters and controls on them at all times.
MCPS schools expect to be fully in person for the upcoming school year. For students with extenuating circumstances, applying to and attending the Montgomery Virtual Academy is an option, as well as applying for Interim Instructional Services. All students will use Chromebooks as their primary device for instruction. MCPS Google accounts are provided to all staff and students. In addition to online applications and curriculum, MCPS uses the Canvas Learning Management System for teachers to create online course repositories that can include course materials, assignments, discussion threads, quizzes and more. The MCPS network can support all student and staff devices, so instruction and assessment should be seamless.
If a shift to virtual instruction is necessary, all students will have access to a Chromebook at home. The same technology resources, including online subscriptions to Nearpod, PearDeck and Zoom, will be used to ensure a seamless transition to virtual instruction. Canvas will be used as the primary course repository.
During in-person instruction, the Canvas platform can be used by teachers to house course materials, including notes, presentations, videos, assignments, calendars, quizzes and more. These courses may or may not include all classroom work, as teachers are able to use many online and physical resources to prepare high-quality instructional tasks. The Canvas platform is similar to a course folder or binder and is one resource that teachers and students have available to them.
In addition to the technology tools provided to MCPS students, students eligible for special education and related services are provided with low- and/or high-tech assistive technology devices and services as determined by the IEP team.
Your comments and feedback are important and continue to help inform our planning.
Please visit www.mcpssubmitfeedback.org to provide feedback on our reopening plan throughout the year.