Survey: Nearly half of Montgomery Co. parents say they’re planning for in-person learning for kids this fall

The board of education in Montgomery County, Maryland, on Tuesday presented the results of a parent-staff survey gauging the preference of the school community with regard to the upcoming school year.

Nearly 56,000 responses were collected, and findings revealed that 42% of respondents to the parent survey indicated that they plan to send their children for in-person instruction. In contrast, 25% of staff want to return for in-person work.

Meanwhile, 52% of respondents to the staff survey indicated that they would like to have the opportunity to work virtually, and 22% of respondents to the parent survey said they plan to have their children complete virtual-only instruction.

The survey came as D.C.-area school systems weigh how to approach the 2020-21 academic year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other results showed that 35% of respondents to the parent survey have not yet decided between in-person learning on virtual-only instruction, and 22% of respondents to the staff survey are not yet sure about in-person work or virtual only.

Montgomery County Public Schools is considering options for the fall and anticipating what needs to be done if students return to physical classrooms.

For example, students who ride the bus will need to sit in marked seats, alternating every other row. According to the parent-staff survey, 60% of parents said their child needs transportation to school.

And for students who get dropped off and picked up, staggered arrival and pickup times could extend morning and afternoon wait times.

In order to facilitate social distancing and reduce the number of students and staff inside schools, the county is considering a staggered schedule. Students would alternate or rotate in-school learning with more robust virtual learning.

For example, in the blended virtual model for elementary and middle school students, there will be two groups based on grade level, last name or address, and school cluster. The two groups will alternate being in the building and doing virtual learning.

One group will be in school Monday and Tuesday and the other group will be in school Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday, both groups will be home doing asynchronous learning.

There is also an option for full-time online learning. A sample schedule shared at the board meeting showed two classes before lunch, social-emotional lessons, small groups, interventions and support after lunch, and two classes in the afternoon on Monday, Tuesday,
Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would be asynchronous learning.

Families will have the opportunity to choose between the blended virtual learning model or the virtual-only learning model between July 27 and Aug. 7.

Associate Superintendent Niki Hazel said the school is prepared to move to full virtual learning, if it becomes necessary.

Board member Rebecca Smondrowski introduced another proposal, wherein all secondary school students will be 100% virtual and elementary school students will return to school and be spread out in secondary school spaces.

School Superintendent Jack Smith said Smondrowski’s proposal was something that was already looked at and considered. The proposal would be an opportunity cost, Smith said, which means it would take a fully developed model for it to be considered and that would take a lot of staff hours to model.

Brenda Wolff, vice president of the board of education, said no plan is perfect, and she does not want to take focus away from educating students. Wolff also said that considering another plan, when hours have been spent coming up with options that are scientifically based, could delay a decision.

“Parents have to know something,” Wolff said. “And to start with a whole new plan is going to be problematic because it’s going to push back the date that we can get something out to the public.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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