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by Terri Hogan, Senior Staff Writer
Judith Hruz, Editor
County public school students will start the new school year the same way they finished the last one — virtually.
In a message to the community on July 11, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith shared initial considerations and planning for the school year, set to begin on Aug. 31.
But no specific date has been selected for when classes might resume in school buildings.
During a July 15 media briefing, Smith stressed that school officials “have not made a final decision when and if we will go back.”
Smith said that decision will be determined by working with the Maryland State Department of Education, county and state health professionals, and the evolving research and science.
“We will move forward very carefully and thoughtfully” he said.
On July 11, MCPS released its draft “Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover Guide,” which provides an overview of a few of the recovery models under consideration in light of the information and guidance received from the Maryland State Department of Education and from county health partners.
“We have discussed and evaluated several possible models for reopening schools and the truth is, there is no one option that can address all of the instructional, operational and logistical challenges that our school system is faced with,” Smith said. “Most importantly, we know all of the options we consider must be examined through the lens of equity and excellence and ensure the health and safety of our 166,000 students and 24,000 staff members.”
School officials will re-evaluate school options as the year moves forward.
In his letter in the draft guide, Smith said, “I want to reiterate that this is just a draft guide and we will continue to amend, adjust and improve these recommendations as we receive feedback from you — our parents, staff and students.”
According to the draft “Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover Guide,” a few of the possible options include:
A gradual return of students and staff to the classroom, on a rotational schedule with reduced class sizes and reduced numbers of students in the building;
Families will have the option to choose a virtual-only format when the final schedule and reopening plan is released;
Bus capacity will be limited to 12 passengers, in accordance with current public health guidelines. Families will need to opt in to request school bus transportation, and capacity will be prioritized for elementary and middle school students; and
When in-person instruction begins, planned operational changes will include physical distancing, limited access to school buildings, hand washing, face coverings, hand sanitizing, no supply sharing, and frequent cleaning of school facilities and buses.
Smith stressed that decisions will be based on safety, “while providing vigorous, enriching and high-quality education.”
The Maryland State Board of Education must approve the plans of all schools systems in the state; Montgomery County government plays no role in approving school recover plans.
“MCPS Fall 2020: Reimagine, Reopen, Recover Guide” is available at https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/reopening/MCPSDraftRecoveryPlan.pdf
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