January 9, 2022
Dear MCPS Community,
The past week has been extremely challenging for everyone in our community. Evolving COVID-19 guidance, bus staffing shortages and inclement weather caused disruptions to teaching and learning and school operations. While the circumstances leading to these disruptions are beyond our control, we should have done a better job communicating with you about these challenges and clarifying our response. I apologize for any stress this caused our staff, students, and community members.
The health and well-being of our students and staff remain our top priority. We continue to believe that in-person learning is the best way to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of our students and will continue to prioritize keeping our school buildings open. Switching any school to virtual learning—even for a short period of time—will be a last resort and that decision will be based on the best information available and the guidance of national, state, and local health professionals.
The remainder of this message outlines what steps we are taking to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and families; updates to school operations; and when we will consider switching a school to virtual learning. This includes information about:
I know that many of our families are struggling with the impact of the pandemic right now, and that includes my family: I tested positive for COVID-19 early last week. Thankfully, my symptoms have been mild, and I am working at home while isolating. Together, I know we can make it through this difficult time. Our community is strong and our commitment to our students is unwavering. Thank you for your support of MCPS, our students, and our outstanding staff.
Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools
KN-95 Masks for All Students and Staff
Last week all staff members received KN-95 masks, and we will be providing KN-95 masks to all students over the course of the next two weeks. These masks provide a higher level of protection than most other masks, and we strongly encourage students and staff to wear them when inside MCPS facilities as masks continue to be required.
Rapid Test Kits for All Students and Staff
Students and staff will receive take-home rapid test kits this week. 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. (You may also call your child’s school if you are not able to submit the information electronically.) Please report all results, both positive and negative, when using the rapid test kits distributed in schools by this Friday, January 14. Please also continue to report all positive test results for students and staff that come from tests not provided by the school system. 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 is earlier.
Eleven Schools Currently in Virtual Learning
We have 11 schools that transitioned to 14 days of virtual learning last week. Out of recognition that many families have made plans based on the information provided, these 11 schools will remain in virtual learning this week. They will return to in-person learning effective Tuesday, January 18. Rapid test kits will be distributed at these schools this week; all students and staff are strongly encouraged to take the rapid test and report the results by this Friday, January 14.
MCPS Bus Transportation
While we continue to work to respond to the COVID-19 related bus driver staffing challenges, we will take the following actions in an attempt to minimize disruption:
Additionally, we are exploring numerous recruiting strategies and a variety of other options to meet both short-and long-term staffing shortages in the Department of Transportation. Thank you very much for your patience. Apply here.
Virtual Community Conversation on COVID-19 Response
We value ongoing dialogue with our community and will be scheduling a virtual community conversation this Wednesday, January 12, from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm. More details will be shared in an update early this week.
In the future, the number of isolation days may be reduced for students as community-level data regarding the transmission or outbreak of the virus decreases.
Revised Quarantine Guidelines for Staff
These quarantine guidelines apply to staff who are close contacts of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and are unvaccinated; adults 18 years and older who have completed the primary series of Pfizer vaccine over 5 months ago or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted OR completed the primary series of J&J over 2 months ago and are not boosted; or have not had COVID-19 in the past 90 days:
In the future, the number of quarantine days may be reduced for students as community-level data regarding the transmission or outbreak of the virus decreases.
In-Person Extracurricular Activities May Resume Tuesday, Jan. 18
All in-person extracurricular activities may resume effective Tuesday, Jan. 18. All participants are required to complete the rapid test provided by the school and submit the result no later than Friday, Jan. 14. No spectators are allowed at extracurricular activities. These activities are assessed on a daily basis based on emerging public health science and data, and are subject to change over the next month in response to the Omicron variant.
How You Can Help
We need your help in keeping our students and staff safe and ensuring we have complete information. Here’s how you can help!
Social-Emotional Health and Well-Being
This is a difficult time for everyone in our community. The pandemic remains a source of anxiety for many, and MCPS is committed to providing resources to support students, staff and families as we move through the pandemic. Schools will have counselors and psychologists available, and all staff are encouraged to contact the Employee Assistance Program for support and resources.
Email us: ASKMCPS@mcpsmd.org