Montgomery County schools mull ‘not great’ return options, address sex assault claims

The exact plan for the 2020-21 school year in Montgomery County, Maryland, remains in question, but the school board set a date for when more details will become available.

In a Wednesday media briefing, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said “there are not great options” for a return to school buildings in the fall.

But, a meeting on Aug. 6 is expected to determine when students will be brought back for in-person learning “if the conditions and the trends continue to stay as they are now,” Smith said.

“We’re going to open schools on Aug. 31 for all of our students … it’ll be a remote learning situation, and then we’re going to see how we can move into other models as that becomes possible,” he said.

Smith said the school system will adjust the plan accordingly while working with state and county officials.

“Our goal is to work within the framework of what our officials require, in the county as well as the state, and to work especially within the framework of what our health officials say is appropriate,” he said.

On Saturday, MCPS announced a plan that would have students returning in phases, by grade level, last name and school cluster once the new school year begins Monday, Aug. 31. The plan also called for sharply reduced class sizes, with an aim to have all grade levels experiencing some in-person learning by the end of November.

Smith clarified that it is a draft plan, or the beginning of the reopening plan, not a firm timeline.

He added that a decision on fall sports should be made by the end of the month, but that he “can’t imagine that [the different entities governing high school sports will] allow sports that are outside the restrictions that are in place for the community.”

Sexual assault allegations

Deputy Superintendent Monifa McKnight reiterated that the school system is “actively looking into” sexual assault allegations brought on by current and former students.

“This is very personal to us,” she said. “We are absolutely enraged and saddened to hear about these allegations.”

The allegations stem from social media accounts from students — past and present — detailing incidents ranging from lewd comments to sexual assault at Montgomery County schools.

McKnight said over the last five years, MCPS has taken steps to strengthen abuse prevention efforts, enhance reporting protocols and encourage greater cultural competence throughout the school system.

McKnight said the director of student welfare and Title IX coordinator will work with other school system offices to take the necessary steps to respond to the findings of the investigation.

“MCPS has been and continues to be committed to being a safe and welcoming environment for all of our students,” McKnight said, applauding students who came forward.

Anti-racism audit

In response to the nationwide unrest stemming from the deaths of Black Americans in police custody, McKnight said MCPS is working to improve racial disparities within the school system.

She outlined the anti-racism system audit based on the following areas:

  1. Analyze workforce diversity within the school system
  2. Identify the progress in the areas
  3. Update K-12 curriculum review with a lens on equity for all subjects at all levels
  4. Analyze the progress on the components of the equity achievement framework
  5. Analyze community relations
  6. Evaluate the celebration of diversity and inclusion.

“As a system, we’re looking deeper into how our working commitment will move forward in our school system, closer to the goal of being a more equitable community,” McKnight said.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

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