More than half of Montgomery schools could return to virtual | #specialneeds | #kids

The daily case count released by MCPS showed 126 of its 209 schools in the “red level.”

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — More than half of Montgomery County Public Schools are in limbo of potentially returning to virtual learning, according to case counts released by MCPS Wednesday night.

The school system has classified 126 schools to be in its COVID level red zone, which means over 5% of students and staff have reported testing positive for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

The level red zone is a threshold that when reached means a conversation with the Department of Health and Human Services about the next steps, including the possibility of 14 days of virtual learning.

An MCPS spokesperson said as of Thursday only the 11 schools currently doing virtual learning, which were the schools initially elevated to level red, will continue doing so.

An upgrade to level red does not mean an automatic switch to virtual learning, according to the district.

RELATED: Montgomery Co. Public Schools moves 11 schools to virtual, outline 3-tiered approach as COVID cases rise

This newly updated data comes after Wednesday’s return to in-person learning was marred with staff shortages and COVID-19-related absences.

According to an MCPS letter to families, 75 of its 1,228 bus routes were impacted in the morning and 82 of 1,228 were canceled in the afternoon.

As for what parents can expect Thursday morning, the letter to parents said they expect to experience a similar situation with staffing shortages and COVID-related absences and will communication routes and affected schools.

The letter also said the school district will prioritize routes with special needs students, continue to use available staff to drive multiple routes, and use available staff to cover routes. 

The letter also said if your child is on an affected route to take them to and from school, and if you can’t to let the school know and their absence will be excused.

RELATED: 90 bus routes canceled in Montgomery County Public School system after drivers call out

As for what the first day back to the classroom looked like inside the school, several parents told WUSA9 their children told them there were also a lot of teachers absent.

“He described a situation where half of his teachers were not there. There was one class, in particular, there was no teacher and no sub so all of the students were left alone in the classroom,” Laura Stewart, an Albert Einstein High School parent said.

Now that 126 schools have been upgraded to level red, Stewart said as a parent of a child who attends one of those schools she has no idea what to expect in the hours and days to come.

“I’m a very involved parent and I’m not exactly sure what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Stewart said. “That worries me because I think there’s a lot of parents that are going to see that list and not know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I’m a little unsure.”

An MCPS spokesperson said more details are expected to come in a message to the community on Thursday.

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