Students in Montgomery County, Maryland, will resume school in the fall but school officials are trying to figure out exactly what that will look like, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Montgomery County Public School staff members discussed the possibility of full-time remote learning or a hybrid of in-person and at-home classes, with students attending on alternate days, during a meeting Monday.
Changes to how students interact would include social distancing on buses and in the classrooms. Face coverings would also likely be required and cleaning protocols would be adjusted.
Officials showed a video demonstrating how it would work, with desks placed inside taped boxes, along with signage and markers throughout schools to encourage distances of at least six feet.
“Social distancing requirements alone will bring a whole new dimension of on-site management from the time they arrive at school to dismissal,” said Janet Wilson, the interim chief of schools, who outlined plans to reopen during the fall.
How students learn will also look different. Students will not be allowed to share materials, like crayons and other school supplies.
Officials say summer classes, which begin this month, will serve as a trial. So far, just over 14,300 students are registered across Montgomery County.
“It’s imperative that we plan for contingencies. As we all know, this is an evolving situation and will evolve again as we approach fall,” said Wilson, adding there will be protocols in place for teachers and parents to test children.
There will also be plans based on guidance from the county health department if there is a diagnosed case of COVID-19 within a school.
Evaluating how school closures have affected students is a major concern as well.
“We acknowledge that students have been impacted in immeasurable ways,” added Wilson, who said there will be resources for parents to help support students, including training on the county’s online parent portal.
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School board member Jeanette Dixon stressed the importance of students returning to school, but shared the concerns of teachers in regards to safety, “I do pray for us all that somehow things will turn around, but I realize also that there are a lot of people who are concerned.”
There will be a more detailed outline of reopening plans presented to the county school board on July 14th.