Montgomery Co. parents supporting in-person learning say return date should be ‘more aggressive’

While Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools appear to be on track to begin reopening buildings for in-person classes in March, some parents believe it doesn’t go far enough.

The county school board voted this week to start bringing kids back on March 1.

Vocational and special needs students will be in the first group, followed by other grades in the following weeks.

“We have great examples all around us of counties and school systems coming back much more quickly,” said Rupa Dainer, a parent in Bethesda.

Dainer has two daughters in eighth and 10th grades, and she is involved with a parent-led group called “Together Again MCPS,” which advocates for reopening.

Dainer thinks the county needs to be a little more aggressive with the timeline.

“Basically all the kids are not going to come back til late April, almost May,” Dainer said. “That kind of slow reintegration doesn’t have to happen.”

A recent survey of families found about 40% prefer to return to in-person instruction.

Late last year, thousands of parents and educators with “PAGES Coalition of Montgomery County” wrote Gov. Larry Hogan, urging for a delay in any hybrid learning plans until COVID-19 metrics declined. The group also called for a delay until all teachers and staff interested in a vaccine received one and returned to work two weeks after their second dose.

This week, the county council also approved a plan to ease an indoor dining ban to 25% with a 90-minute dining limit, despite the fact that many members who voted in favor said they wouldn’t dine out themselves.

“I think the county is fighting a lot of fear,” said Dainer. “The folks who want to go back are being painted as reckless, things that I think that are pretty unfair.”

Earlier this week, some county parents expressed frustration at the decision to ease some students back to in-person classes.

Parent Wylea Chase said she was not pleased with the decision to bring students back. She said the metrics for reopening have not been met and not all have been vaccinated.

Becky Mayo, another parent, said she is worried particularly about the air exchange per hour indoors, in addition to social distancing and the lack of push to wait until teachers are vaccinated.

“I think if we can limit the numbers, to teachers who want to be there, and the kids who really need to be there … then we stand a better chance to make it safer for those who do need and want to be in the buildings,” Mayo said.

WTOP’s Luke Lukert contributed to this report.

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