The Montgomery County teachers union has expressed concern over the reopening plan approved by board of education officials in Maryland’s largest school district, calling it “inadequate.”
During an emergency meeting Wednesday, the Montgomery County Education Association overwhelmingly passed a lack of confidence vote and detailed concerns for the safety of teachers and students amid the ongoing pandemic.
Concerns raised include a lack of people and a need for more space in order to make the school system’s reopening plan possible without negatively impacting students in low income or predominantly Black and brown communities.
“MCEA cannot support the current plan, which will only increase inequity in Montgomery County schools,” union officials said.
The union’s demands include a plan that aligns with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines when it comes to the physical reopening of school buildings, a contact tracing and testing program, and an opportunity for employees to be fully vaccinated before returning to the classroom.
The association is requesting a meeting with the county’s board of education to discuss the reopening plans.
In a response to the union, Montgomery County Public Schools acknowledged concerns but remarked that “these plans were developed with input from a diverse set of MCPS stakeholders and are reflective of the district’s commitment to fostering a partnership that benefits our students, staff and community.”
The Board of Education said in a statement Wednesday they were “deeply disappointed” in the union’s decision, saying that their reopening plan was developed after “hundreds of hours” of negotiation with the union, resulting in a memorandum of understanding Feb. 12.
“There is no perfect plan and no decision without consequences,” the board said. “We will continue to review and adjust our strategies to fulfill our core mission of ensuring that every student will have the academic, creative problem solving, and social-emotional skills to be successful in college and career.”
Superintendent Jack Smith said he was “deeply perplexed” by the union’s move, adding that “MCPS staff benchmarked with school districts across the state and nation for best practices and applied important guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our state and local health officials.”
Students are set to return to classrooms in phases starting March 1.