Md. Board of Education denies Montgomery Co. request to cancel school days before in-person learning resumes

The Maryland State Board of Education has denied a Montgomery County request for four school days to be canceled in the beginning of March, when the county is scheduled to phase back into in-person learning.

In a letter to the state board, Montgomery County Superintendent Jack Smith said a waiver for March 9-12 is necessary to allow teachers to set up classrooms, practice compliance with coronavirus protocols and finalize student schedules and transportation matters.

“The waiver of four days will allow staff to complete this important work without requiring divided attention from virtual instruction and support for students,” the letter says.

Smith also requested the waiver because the county will “start with our youngest learners and students with the greatest need for learning support, some of whom have never navigated a school building before.”

But in its response, the state said to be eligible for a waiver, school systems are required to prove they made an effort to comply with the state’s 180 school day requirement. It did not believe Montgomery County did so.

In the response, State Superintendent Karen Salmon said Montgomery County didn’t use the make-up days included in its calendars and didn’t propose an extension to the school year, which is currently scheduled to end in June.

“The implementation of in-person instruction should be accomplished without decreasing the required 180-days and reducing instruction for already struggling students,” Salmon wrote.

Some Montgomery County students were originally scheduled to resume in-person learning Feb. 1, but earlier this month the county pushed that date to March 15.

The school board is scheduled to meet Feb. 23, when it will discuss the status of its plans for in-person learning.

“We are committed to ensuring our staff has adequate time to prepare for the safe return of students to buildings,” a county spokeswoman said in a statement. “We will explore alternative plans to provide this needed time in the coming weeks.”

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.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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