MCPS Releases Framework for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction Beginning January 2021

November 6, 2020

Framework Outlines Considerations for Instructional Models and Health and Safety Protocols; Board to Return to In-Person Meetings January 7

On November 6, the Montgomery County Board of Education heard an overview of Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) framework for the return of students to in-person learning beginning January 2021. The Board’s work session was the first of three meetings that will provide details of the district’s updated Recovery of Education plan. The Board is expected to review and take tentative action on the proposed plan at its Nov. 10 business meeting and vote on a final plan on Dec. 3.

MCPS is committed to ensuring the safety of students and staff and the continued academic progress of all students. Recently, in collaboration with local health officials, the district developed a health metrics grid for a phased-in return to in-person instruction. The grid is aligned with CDC and state guidelines and is reflective of the MCPS commitment to return to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible. 

Return of Students Timeline
MCPS will begin a phased-in return to in-person instruction on January 12, 2021,  with a focus on specific special education programs; certain Career and Technology Education programs that require hands-on experiences for licensure; and other special student populations. If health metrics continue to be met, larger groups of students will begin phasing in on February 1, 2021, the start of the second semester. 

Health and Safety

MCPS has established core safety protocols that will guide its work for a return to in-person learning. These include:

  • Maintaining limited capacity in schools and facilities

  • Administering health screening protocols for those who access school buildings

  • Ensuring all students and staff wear face coverings

  • Providing access to hand sanitizer and emphasizing best practices for frequent hand-washing

  • Enforcing physical distancing and placing appropriate signage in buildings and offices to reinforce this practice

Schools are in the process of setting up buildings with stores of PPE and physical distancing signage and implementing air quality improvements and operational protocols. Staff are also receiving training on critical health and safety guidelines and new processes.

Parent Preference Survey

On November 11, parents and guardians will be emailed a survey to identify their preference to either:

  1. Participate in a partial, in-person instructional experience or

  2. Remain in a fully virtual learning experience through the second semester.

In addition, parents selecting an in-person experience will be asked about their transportation needs.

Parents will have until December 3 to provide their choice and indicate if they will need bus service.

Survey responses will help determine how many school locations will be opened to serve students who have chosen a partial in-person model. Options for this may include:

  • opening every school location

  • specific locations based on demand, or

  • a regional hub model.

Learning Models

Students who choose to remain in a fully virtual model will not see a change from what they are currently experiencing. Students who choose a partial in-person model may experience a combination of direct supports, learning in a virtual and in-person combined class, or a fully in-person only classroom. These decisions will be made based on the number of students who elect an in-person experience, their specific needs and staff availability.

Special Education Assessment Centers

On December 3, MCPS will open special education assessment centers at Hallie Wells, Sligo and Julius West middle schools, where families will be able to receive support by appointment Monday through Friday. These assessment centers will provide families opportunities to takein-person educational and psychological assessments to determine initial and ongoing special education eligibility. 

To learn more about the recovery framework presented to the Board of Education, watch the Nov. 6 Board meeting here and view the PowerPoint presentation here. Members of the community can submit feedback at

Future Board of Education Meetings

Beginning January 7, 2021, the Board will transition to a mixed model of public meetings that will incorporate in-person and remote participation. Public comments will continue to be accepted as pre-recorded videos only.


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