BOE unanimously votes to alter the in-person return schedule 


Photo courtesy Vishnu Dandi

The BOE met to accelerate the return to school scheduling.

By Vishnu Dandi

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted unanimously to speed up MCPS’ transition to in-person instruction on March 23. 

Previously, eight graders, freshmen and juniors were set to return to in-person learning on April 19, while seventh graders and sophomores would return on April 23. Under the new proposal, both groups are now scheduled to return on April 19.  

Board members were pleased with the success of the March 15 transition, and cited students’ mental health as a main reason to combine re-entry groups. 

“The March 15 launch has been successful in terms of the operational and instructional elements of the plan,” said MCPS Chief of Teaching, Learning and Schools Dr. Jannet Wilson. “We are ready to continue bringing back more students.”  

While Board of Education members are in favor of an accelerated reopening schedule, teachers and students alike are concerned about recent COVID-19 outbreaks across the county. 

The Maryland Department of Health reported two outbreaks at MCPS schools: two cases at Winston Churchill High School and four cases at Whitman. Along with these outbreaks, there have been dozens of other individual cases throughout the county.

“What concerns me most is the safety and well-being of my students and our ability to sustain the re-opening process; after all, the virus only has to be lucky once,” said Whitman physics teacher Samuel Rutledge, who plans to return to the building. “We have to be on our game all the time. I, and I’m sure many other teachers, feel the burden of responsibility for our students’ health.”   

County officials have tried to assure parents and students that MCPS is taking the appropriate safety precautions to prevent any uptick in cases. 

 “MCPS has collaborated with the Department of Health and Human services on each of these cases to ensure we follow the proper protocols and processes as outlined in the community messages,” said Gboyinde Onijala, Supervisor of MCPS’ Public Information Office. “We want to assure our families that we continue to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of students and staff.”

The Board also voted to adjust the scheduled return date for group 1.2, which consists of fourth graders, fifth graders, sixth graders and seniors. Instead of returning to school immediately after spring break, they are now set to return on April 8. The planned educational instruction on April 6 will be virtual to accommodate the transition.

“Given the concerns about the immediate return following spring break — when we know community members may travel — the recommendation is to resume in-person class on Thursday, which gives time to families who plan on taking a COVID testing,” said Derek Turner of MCPS’ Department of Communications. 

Many students, while weary of the health risks associated with COVID-19, appreciate MCPS’ effort to accelerate the reopening schedule. For junior Braden Mallios, the earlier return dates are especially significant for students that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“A lot of students have a lot of trouble learning,” sophomore Braden Mallios said. “Having the option to return can help make school easier for students who are having a hard time online.”