Maryland

Montgomery County Schools Expect to Bring Students Back to Classroom in Phases

Students would attend school in person two days a week and learn at home for the other three

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Montgomery County Public Schools released a draft of its reopening plan for the upcoming school year on Saturday, telling families it anticipates school will start on a virtual-only basis on Monday, Aug. 31 before students come back to the classroom in phases.

Blended virtual learning

The county's first option for students would bring them back to school on a rotation based on their grade level, last name or address and school cluster over the first months of the fall semester.

Students in specific special education programs and those new to a school level, including prekindergarten, kindergarten, 6th and 9th grades, would be the first to return to school, according to MCPS' "Reimagine, Reopen, Recover" plan.

Phase two of the rotation would include grades 1, 2, 7 and 10, and the third phase includes 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 12.

MCPS said more details and dates about when each phase will attend school in-person will be released later, but phases could change depending on the pandemic. The school system aims for all grade levels to be in a school rotation by end of November.

"We continue to work diligently on plans for the fall that are focused on enhancing virtual learning and bringing back as many students as possible for in-person instruction on a consistent basis," Superintendent Jack Smith said in a letter to parents. "I do want to make it clear that the decision to reopen school buildings for some or all students will ultimately be made by Governor Hogan and Dr. Salmon."

Elementary and middle school students will be in two groups with Group A attending school on Mondays and Tuesdays and Group B going to school on Thursdays and Fridays. High school students would be split into three groups. See sample schedules here.

All students will take lessons online at home on Wednesdays.

Virtual-only learning

Families will have the option to choose a virtual-only format once the final schedule and reopening plan is released.

Virtual learning will feature more live, teacher-led instruction in the fall, MCPS said. Students will also have independent learning time to access instruction at a time that best meets their needs.

The school system says families can choose which model they prefer during registration, from July 27 to Aug. 7.

Transportation

Distancing measures will limit school buses to just 12 students per bus, rather than the usual 50 passengers.

Available bus capacity will be prioritized for elementary and middle school students, and families must opt in to request school bus transportation.

"While we will make every effort to transport students who need school bus transportation to school, the transportation capacity is very limited due to public health guidelines," the school system said.

Health and safety

All students and teachers will be required to wear face masks at school, and there will be increased spacing in schools and classrooms to maintain physical distancing.

MCPS said there will be frequent cleaning, hand sanitizing stations and students will be required to wash their hands before and after meals.

Students are encouraged to bring their own lunch, or they will be served individually plated meals in classrooms instead of in a communal dining hall or cafeteria.

Smith said the plan is a draft and parents can submit their thoughts here.

The school board will discuss the plan at an upcoming meeting on July 14.

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