Montgomery Co. schools plan to remain open after county residents test positive for coronavirus

Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland’s largest school system, will remain open after the state confirmed three county residents have tested positive for coronavirus.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency shortly after announcing the state’s first three cases on Thursday night.

Though schools will remain open, the county is prepared for the possibility of future school closures.

The school system is encouraging Montgomery County families to remain vigilant and consult health providers if anyone begins experiencing symptoms believed to be related to the coronavirus.

“State officials have shared that they do not believe [the individuals who tested positive] have had contact with MCPS students,” the school system said in a letter to the community.

“As you know, we have been preparing for this situation through our interagency coordination with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security,” the letter said.

“As we move forward, we are preparing for the possibility of school closures in the future should this become necessary.”

Montgomery County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight told WTOP on Thursday that plans for remote instruction and hard copy lessons would be ready should schools have to close due to the coronavirus.

She was repeating a message delivered in a briefing Tuesday with county officials.

Any decisions about closing an individual school, or all schools across the system, would come from the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, McKnight said.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, who would be the person to make the call on school closures, was asked what would trigger that decision.

“There’s no hard and fast criteria, in terms of being able to say if five cases happen, this is what we would do. I would just emphasize that we would look at all of those factors of information to make a decision that’s also in concert with our state officials,” Gayles told reporters.

Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said he’s constantly getting updates on the response to the coronavirus. Smith leads Maryland’s largest school system, with 208 school buildings and more than 165,000 students.

A married couple in their 70s and a woman in her 50s tested positive for the virus, Hogan said. They contracted the virus while traveling overseas.

“While today’s news may seem overwhelming, this is not a reason to panic,” Hogan said. “Marylanders should go to work or go to school, as they normally do. At the same time, I want to continue to remind everyone to prepare themselves and to continue to stay informed.”

For future school-related announcements about coronavirus in the county, visit the MCPS coronavirus webpage.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan reported from Rockville, Maryland.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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