MCPS Commits to Keep Schools Open

December 20, 2021

COVID-19 Testing, Face Coverings, Stressing Vaccinations and a Request to the Community to Follow Mitigation Strategies is Focus of MCPS Approach to Recent Positive Case Rise

In line with national and statewide trends, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is experiencing a substantial increase in COVID-19 cases. The district has seen more student and staff cases in December than in the first three months of the school year combined. Nonetheless, positive case rates in MCPS are still one of the lowest in the state of Maryland. As MCPS confronts this concerning pattern, the district remains committed to keeping schools open for fully in-person learning.

Maintaining in-person instruction provides students with the best environment for addressing the learning disruptions that resulted from virtual and hybrid learning in the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 school years.

During a December 20 press conference, Dr. Monifa B. McKnight, Interim Superintendent of Schools, reaffirmed the commitment to keeping schools open. Dr. McKnight was joined by Dr. James Bridgers, acting county health officer for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). MCPS has partnered with DHHS through the pandemic, and their recommendations have guided MCPS for the past 21 months.

“This past summer, our staff worked incredibly hard to be able to welcome students back to school five days a week for in-person instruction because we know that in-person learning is what is best for students,” said Dr. McKnight. “I am very grateful for the hard work of all staff, our partnership with our employee associations and our entire community to make this happen. We must do what is right for each and every one of our students and that is to teach, in-person.”

The following parameter will require the consideration of individual school closures.
To ensure the safety of students and staff, MCPS will be following DHHS guidance around individual school outbreaks as defined by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).  Beginning in January, if 5 percent or more of unrelated students/teachers/staff (minimum of 10 unrelated students/teachers/staff) test positive in a 14-day period, then DHHS and MCPS will work together to determine if the school should be closed for 14 days and the students would transition to virtual learning.

Upholding the commitment to in-person instruction requires the entire Montgomery County community to remain vigilant to all health and safety measures available. Those strategies are:

  • Get the shot. The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and available for everyone ages 5 and older.
  • Get the booster shot. The third shot to ensure you are sufficiently protected is now available for everyone 16 and above.
  • Wear a face covering over your nose and mouth whenever you are in an MCPS building or in public buildings. 
  • Wash your hands frequently before and after eating or touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Say Yes to the Test. Give permission for the random and rapid COVID-19 screening programs in MCPS schools. This is critical to identifying cases and reducing the number of students in quarantine.
  • Socialize outdoors. If you meet with others indoors, avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. See more recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Planning to travel? Know what the CDC has to say about how to do that safely.

Although as a community we may be experiencing pandemic fatigue, it is crucial that we continue practicing the preventive behaviors that have helped to keep our community safe.

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