Dozens of students and parents endured freezing temperatures Saturday to protest against a phased plan to in-person learning in Montgomery County, Maryland.
Bundled up in parkas, wool caps and behind face masks, the crowd stood on Md. Route 355, in front of the county’s Board of Education headquarters, holding colorful handwritten signs that could be seen by passing cars.
Some of the signs argued against the prolonged return plan back to in-person learning, stating: “Teachers Not Screens,” “All Kids Back in March,” and “Why So Slow MOCO.” Under the plan approved on Feb. 9, special education and vocational students will begin returning for in-person instruction on March 1.
But the phased plan will not allow students in grades 7-11 to return inside a school building classroom until late April.
“I definitely think that they should open back up the schools a little quicker than this because it’s been almost a year now that we’ve been out of school, and it’s not ok,” Hazel Staake, a fourth grader from Pine Crest Elementary School, said. “They have to let us back in school.”
Staake, along with other students, described being very frustrated and dissatisfied with remote learning.
“I really want to be in school and be able to play with my friends and be able to see the teacher without her glitching out a lot,” she said.
The board of education said its strategy is a safe plan for in-person learning during the pandemic. However, parents and students at the protest said the county is among the most sluggish in the state to return to in-person instruction, keeping some kids away from classrooms weeks to a month longer than children in other school systems.
“We think that MCPS can speed up their return-to-school schedule,” said Kevin Dougherty, who has children in fifth and third grade.
“Right now, their plan has kids not going back till April, or for even some grades the end of April, more than two months from now, and those kids deserve better,” Dougherty said. “Any kid that wants to be back in school in March should be able to be back in school in March.”
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