Montgomery County Public Schools are committed to starting the school year online, but further plans will be based on the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in the community, school leaders said Wednesday.
Schools will restart virtually on Monday, Aug. 31. From there, school leaders will work with health officials and state and county entities to decide if getting students back into physical classrooms is possible.
"We have not made a final decision when and if we will go into the school buildings. That will all be driven by the context and the health situation in our community," Superintendent Jack Smith said.
There is no single metric that must be met for schools, Smith said.
Ultimately, the Board of Education must approve decisions, Smith said.
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 before students come back to the classroom in phases.
It's possible that the first students, starting with younger grades, would return to schools eight to 12 weeks after the start of the school year.
"If we start," Smith said. "We may not get to start in November to have brick and mortar school experiences."
The in-person schooling plan would cluster students and have groups come into classrooms twice a week. Virtual learning would still be part of schooling.
Montgomery County has counted more than 15,000 coronavirus cases, the second-highest number of any county in Maryland.
Maryland's largest public school system educates 166,000 students and employs 24,000 staff.
The school will also make an effort to ensure families have the technology needed for remote learning, Smith said.
Leadership aims to have students in classrooms during at least part of the week, but says they would adopt an all-online option if there was an increase in COVID-19 spread.