Community Update

January 7, 2022

Dear MCPS Community,

We are writing to inform you of a change in how decisions will be made regarding whether schools will transition from in-person to virtual learning due to positive COVID-19 cases. We have heard from families, students and staff and recognize that the pandemic’s changing landscape continues to generate concern for many community members. These modifications result from clarifications from the state of Maryland on the appropriate use of thresholds for transitioning to virtual learning – and bring MCPS into closer alignment with how large school systems across the country are keeping schools safe amidst similar COVID-related challenges. We appreciate our community’s patience and perseverance as we navigate these dynamics.

The state of Maryland does not currently recommend any automatic trigger or threshold for the suspension of in-person learning. Therefore, MCPS will no longer use a threshold of 5% or more of unrelated students and staff in a school who test positive in a 14-day period to consider a transition to virtual learning. The 11 school communities that are currently engaged in virtual learning will receive more information by Sunday afternoon regarding next steps.

Moving forward, MCPS and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will examine schools on a case-by-case basis to determine if any particular school needs to transition to virtual learning for a designated period of time. Factors considered will continue to include the number of students and staff who have tested positive; the number of students in quarantine; the number of staff absent for COVID-related reasons; and the level of spread of the virus in the school. 

Robust mitigation measures—including masking, distribution of KN-95 masks, enhanced ventilation, high vaccination rates and increased access to testing—are in place and contribute to keeping schools safe. Identifying COVID-19 cases remains an important step for slowing the spread of the virus. Any student who tests positive will be required to isolate for 10 days from the date of the positive test or 10 days from the onset of symptoms, whichever comes first.

By early next week, take-home rapid test kits will be distributed to all students and staff. These easy-to-use tests will reveal the prevalence of the virus in each school community. They will quickly identify positive cases, allow COVID-19 positive individuals to isolate, and further reduce the spread of the virus in schools and offices.

Parents are asked to help students administer these tests at home and to submit whether their child has tested positive or negative using the MCPS COVID-19 Reporting Form. It is important for parents to report all results, both positive and negative, when using the rapid test kits distributed in schools. (Parents should continue to report positive results from tests students receive outside of school, as well.)

We recognize that there is a great deal of concern about the rise in COVID-19 cases in our schools and community. Please know that we understand these concerns and are committed to maintaining a safe environment for students and staff.


Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools

James Bridgers, Ph.D.
Acting Chief Health Officer
Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services

Note: The MCPS regularly scheduled Thursday email update to the community was held this week while these important changes were being finalized. Those regular updates to the community will continue next week.

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