The Montgomery County School Board asked County Executive Marc Elrich for help Tuesday getting its students tested for COVID-19, citing the “excessive numbers” of children forced to quarantine during the first week of school.
The plea comes after Montgomery County Public Schools announced more cautious COVID-19 protocols about who must stay home. Under the new guidance, unvaccinated students will be sent home if they are exposed to someone who has just one COVID-19 symptom, which includes fever, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea, vomiting, new headaches or new loss of taste or smell.
Dozens of COVID-19 cases were confirmed and about 1,000 students and staff had to quarantine from Maryland’s largest school system during the first week of classes. MCPS is asking Elrich for guidance.
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“We are asking for your direct involvement,” the letter reads, with a “written clarification of quarantine protocols; in-school health room COVID-19 testing; additional support for contact tracing; rapid COVID-19 tests; and ‘test to stay’ for students that receive a negative COVID-19 test.”
The last request is an appeal to let students come back to school before their quarantine period is up if they test negative.
News4 has reached out to Elrich for comment about the school board's request and is awaiting a response. Tuesday evening, in an interview with radio station WHUR, he said efforts are underway to provide schools with rapid test kits.
“Our youngest learners and our most vulnerable learners are in particular need of in-person learning interactions with educators. However, this is also the population of students who will be most impacted by the requirement to quarantine because our elementary students are not eligible for COVID-19 vaccination,” the school board said.
Kim Glassman, a special education attorney and MCPS parent, believes the school system’s adjusted protocols, which go into effect Wednesday, will still result in unnecessary distance learning, especially for students like her 5th grader, who are still too young to be vaccinated.
"We already have I think 1,000 kids quarantined in MCPS for roughly 36 positives, which means we are over-quarantining healthy children," Glassman said.
Parents have also complained of up to seven-day delays when receiving contact-tracing notifications.
"It's just a lot of disruption, and just as far as the equities go, for families who don't have the means, don't have someone working from home or don't have someone who can hop in the car and get their kid and get a same-day PCR test, there can be lengthy periods where kids are missing school... where they don't need to be," Glassman said.