Montgomery County Schools Scramble to Find Subs, Bus Drivers as More Staff Catch COVID

Montgomery County Public Schools is holding a virtual town hall at 6:30 p.m. to answer families' questions

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Leaders for Montgomery County, Maryland, say the school system is at a breaking point as more and more teachers and bus drivers call out sick due to COVID-19.

Some county leaders say it's just a matter of time before the school system has to shut down in-person learning.

"The staffing and personnel shortages are wreaking so much havoc on our ability to be able to just carry out the basics of the school day," Montgomery County Council member Gabe Albornoz said.

Albornoz said thousands of teachers and bus drivers have called out sick due to COVID-19. It’s something schools across the D.C. area are experiencing, leading to high demand and low supply for substitute teachers.

"They, the system, are really trying to look at every single thing and be as creative as possible in terms of trying to bring folks on board," Montgomery County Council member Craig Rice said.

One idea is to recruit staff members from the MCPS central office to substitute.

But County Executive Marc Elrich said that still isn't enough to fill the gap.

"I’m very concerned about where we are with schools. This is clearly a no-win situation," Elrich said.

Elrich spoke Wednesday from quarantine. He tested positive for COVID on New Year’s Day and said he still has the virus.

After a week of miscommunication and mixed messages, Montgomery County Public Schools apologized to families for the rough start to the new year. News4’s Cory Smith details the lingering challenges facing school leaders while the county tries to meet the rising demand for COVID-19 testing.

"My nose is sniffling. Well, I’m testing positive every day through day 12," Elrich said.

Currently, 11 MCPS schools are still in virtual learning due to COVID outbreaks.

The school system is giving all students free rapid tests along with KN95 masks, and the county is handing out free rapid tests at libraries.

Montgomery County also has an online portal for self-reporting results. Leaders said they hope it’ll create a clearer picture of how many residents have COVID-19.

"Our top concerns and focus continues to be our hospitals and schools. Statewide, there are nearly 3,500 Marylanders hospitalized with COVID," Elrich said.

Montgomery County Public Schools is holding a virtual town hall at 6:30 p.m. to answer families' questions.

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