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MCPS leaders stress education, safety; teachers declare ‘no confidence’

by Judith Hruz
The promise was three-fold: collaboration, commitment and communication.
School officials and county leaders stressed all three during a community webinar on Jan. 12 to address questions and concerns surrounding COVID-19 and Montgomery County Public Schools’ handling of the surge in the number of cases.
The next day, the teachers’ union took a vote of “no confidence” in school system leadership but stopped short of forcing any specific action.
The resolution of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) says:
“Montgomery County Public Schools has been unable to provide a coherent plan to address the many issues that have resulted from the most recent COVID-19 surge.”
The MCEA resolution also says “MCPS has failed to provide clear metrics and criteria to guide decisions.”
During the community forum on Jan. 12, McKnight and Board of Education President Brenda Wolff joined County Executive Marc Elrich, County Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2), and other county and school system leaders to assure the community – parents, teachers, staff, students and the community at-large – that leaders are working collaboratively to protect academic excellence, professional and operational excellence, and to keep students, staff and schools safe.
Wolff called their efforts a “collective commitment” to “providing high-quality instruction in a safe space.”
McKnight said student learning is “at the top of our priority list.”
She said a safe environment is critical, too.
In a Community Update on the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) website on Jan. 9, McKnight said she tested positive for COVID-19 the previous week.
“I know that many of our families are struggling with the impact of the pandemic right now, and that includes my family,” she said.
McKnight added, “Thankfully, my symptoms have been mild, and I am working at home while isolating. Together, I know we can make it through this difficult time. Our community is strong and our commitment to our students is unwavering. Thank you for your support of MCPS, our students, and our outstanding staff.”
The Community Update apologized, saying, “The past week has been extremely challenging for everyone in our community. Evolving COVID-19 guidance, bus staffing shortages and inclement weather caused disruptions to teaching and learning and school operations. While the circumstances leading to these disruptions are beyond our control, we should have done a better job communicating with you about these challenges and clarifying our response. I apologize for any stress this caused our staff, students, and community members.
“The health and well-being of our students and staff remain our top priority. We continue to believe that in-person learning is the best way to meet the educational, social, and emotional needs of our students and will continue to prioritize keeping our school buildings open. Switching any school to virtual learning — even for a short period of time — will be a last resort and that decision will be based on the best information available and the guidance of national, state, and local health professionals.”

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