County Council hosts Youth Virtual Town Hall, discusses school reopenings


Photo courtesy Zoe Cantor

Panelists for the Youth Town Hall discussed MCPS measures for reopening.

By Zoe Cantor

Montgomery County councilmembers hosted a Youth Virtual Town Hall meeting on October 28. Councilmembers confirmed that MCPS plans to reopen next semester and give families the option of sending their children to school. 

“We will give families an option,” said Board of Education President Shebra Evans. “Our plan is to reopen school at the end of first semester, given that the health, the metrics and the numbers are safe for us to return. Families will be able to determine what’s best.”

This marks the first time MCPS officials have confirmed students will return to the classroom this year since the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person learning last March. 

On Wednesday, MCPS showed staff members a hybrid learning instruction model which  is set to take effect when Montgomery County’s infection rates decrease. 

Council President Sidney Katz opened the floor to questions from attendees, acknowledging the difficulty of these unprecedented times for students.

“We understand that our students face many challenges this year with little warning,” Katz said. “Students had to adapt to distanced learning, and endured major disruptions to their social and home lives.” 

The focus of the town hall quickly shifted to the council’s actions regarding mental health awareness. The county has been allocating more funding towards social workers, additional counselors and school health nurses, Councilmember Gabe Albornoz said.

“The council has appropriated resources and funds to expand our mental health professionals,” Albornoz said. “We know that a lot more is going to need to be done. It’s among the highest priorities of this council.”

Panelists also discussed ways students can stay active and engaged during the pandemic. Although some programs are currently shut down, several recreational activities such as martial arts, dancing, fitness and swimming are available for those interested, said Montgomery County Recreation representative Elijah Davis. 

At the end of the meeting, councilmembers introduced Montgomery County Food Council representative Allie Sklarew, who spoke about nutritional accessibility in MCPS. Sklarew mentioned that there are over 70 meal sites across the county where students can pick up free meals. 

The town hall was the first county forum to include Student Member of the Board of Education Nick Asante, who hosted alongside Evans and other councilmembers.

“Now more than ever, students have so many questions that they want to ask their policymakers,” Asante said. “So it was great having this opportunity for students to communicate with them directly.”