In one day, Montgomery County Public Schools went from having 11 schools classified as having a concerning amount of positive COVID-19 cases to 126.
According to the school system's online report, more than 10,000 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday.
So far, only the initial 11 schools have transitioned to virtual learning. All other schools remain in-person for now.
"Schools are, like, empty. Everybody's testing positive. So, it's like what’s the point of being there if it's going to be, like, barely any teachers, not enough subs, and students aren’t even coming," a senior at Paint Branch High School told News4 Thursday.
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Under the school system's policy, a school is designated "red" if 5% or more of its students and staff test positive for COVID in a 14-day period. Once a school is in the red category, MCPS works with the county health department to determine if that school should transition to virtual learning.
County school and health officials consider the following:
- Number of students who test positive
- Number of students in quarantine
- COVID-related absences among staff
- Level of spread in the school and community
The school system's color-coded system to keep track of COVID-19 cases also shows dozens more schools in the "yellow" category, which means more than 3% of students and staff tested positive, but less than 5%.
"I think the kids should stay home because we don’t have the situation under control," one Montgomery County resident told News4.
But school officials said they’re trying to keep school doors open and do it safely.
Jennifer Reesman heads a parent group that advocates for keeping schools open. She said she believes the 5% rule is arbitrary and schools should not be closed unless there’s a large number of positive cases and staffing is impacted.
"I think it's a huge mistake if our county pushes over 60 percent of the schools within the district to virtual education," Reesman said.
School leaders are meeting with health officials to figure out next steps and whether more schools in the red zone should move to virtual education.