Dear MCPS Community:
I hope that you and your families are well and staying safe. The first week of school has flown by and it has been amazing to hear the excitement and see the joy on students' faces as they have reconnected with their peers and staff. Our school communities are all doing their part to ensure a safe learning environment for students and staff and limit the spread of COVID-19.
But amid all the reopening and new school year excitement, I must acknowledge that we have faced challenges this first week. This has included longer bus routes; significant traffic congestion across the county as a result of more parents driving their children to school; individual school closures due to water main breaks and power outages; and a systemwide early release due to severe weather. I understand how disruptive these issues are for our families, students and staff. I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to improve our processes, recruit more bus drivers, hire more teachers, and get adjusted to new routines.
I also want to share with you several important updates, including information on updated quarantine guidance from the Montgomery Department of Health and Human Services; COVID-19 screening tests; and upcoming vaccination clinics.
Have a happy and safe holiday weekend.
Monifa B. McKnight, Ed.D.
Interim Superintendent of Schools
Updated Quarantine Guidance for Unvaccinated Students
Under the direction of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and in alignment with the Maryland State Department of Health and the Maryland State Department of Education, MCPS is implementing the following updated guidelines regarding the quarantine of unvaccinated students:
- Unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19 will be sent home.
- Students who are sent home because they have been in close contact with an individual with symptoms may return if the individual with symptoms tests negative, or has an alternate diagnosis from a medical provider.
- In the absence of a negative COVID-19 test or alternate medical diagnosis of that individual, all students who were in close contact with the individual are required to quarantine for 10 days.
As a result of this guidance from the county, MCPS will quarantine:
- An individual who tests positive
- Those who are unvaccinated and in close contact to an individual who tests positive or has one or more COVID-19 symptoms
- An individual with one or more COVID-19 symptoms
Close contact is:
- Being 3 feet or less away in the classroom for 15 or more minutes during a 24-hour period, regardless of mask use.
- Being 6 feet or less away while eating or outdoors for 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period, regardless of mask use.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- New onset of severe headache
- New onset of loss of taste or smell
If a Student is Quarantined
MCPS will minimize learning disruption when students are in isolation or quarantine. At the elementary level, individual students in isolation or quarantine will receive live, virtual instruction from a teacher on a separate schedule from their peers; if an entire class is in quarantine, the teacher will provide virtual instruction for the class. At the secondary level, students in isolation or quarantine will have opportunities to connect with their teachers for live check-ins.
COVID-19 Screening Testing
MCPS, in partnership with the Maryland Department of Health, is offering COVID-19 screening tests to students in PreK-Grade 6 at no cost. Testing is one of the significant mitigation tactics MCPS will use this fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends random asymptomatic COVID-19 testing because it detects and can limit the spread of the virus, even in the absence of visible symptoms.
This individual screening test requires that families “opt-in” and consent for students to be tested. A random sample of students in these grades will be identified and tested on a weekly basis with parental consent. Fully vetted and authorized contractors, not MCPS staff, will administer the tests. The opt-in form is necessary to allow your child to be a part of this testing process and can be found here. All parents are strongly encouraged to complete this form by Sept. 8 to increase the effectiveness of the testing program overall and increase the safety for all students.
Upcoming Vaccination Clinics
Several opportunities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are available to MCPS staff, eligible students and community members.
Appointments are not necessary, but registration links are included below:
- Saturday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Watkins Mill High School, 10301 Apple Ridge Road in Gaithersburg. Register here.
- Wednesday, Sept. 8 from 6–8 p.m., Kingdom Fellowship AME Church, 12101 Tech Road, Silver Spring. Register here.
- Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 a.m.–1 p.m., Sears parking lot at White Oak, 11255 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring. Register here.
For a comprehensive list of other free vaccination sites, please click here or visit the Montgomery County testing website.