Montgomery Co. schools begin bringing kids back

It’s been a long time since students in Montgomery County, Maryland, have seen their classmates and teachers.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said that March 13, 2020, was students’ “last regular day of school,” after Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and schools Supt. Karen Salmon “announced the two weeks emergency closure.”

On Monday, the county brought its first small group of special education and technical and career education students back into school buildings, which was “under 1,000” students, according to Smith.

As the largest public school system in Maryland, the county is offering families a slightly different hybrid learning model: While most schools are offering in-person learning two days per week for a cohort of students, supplemented by two days of at-home learning, Montgomery County has one cohort in school four days per week, every other week.

“We originally looked at an A/B schedule — two days a week — and many of our families told us that childcare is much easier if you do it week by week,” said Smith.

“And, our health professionals said if you do it every other week, you have a lot of time between sessions,” said Smith. “So, if you have an outbreak, it’s less likely to happen when students are at school, because you’ve built in some time.”

Smith said the configuration of the learning model — as well as coronavirus-mitigation strategies — are a work in progress.

“New information is being added to that body of knowledge every day, about this pandemic,” he said, “so it’s just making the best judgment you can, within the guidelines that the health professionals are giving us.”

Smith, who has announced he will leave the school system at the end of the school year, said the pandemic “has had an effect on every child in Montgomery County.”

“It’s a different level of intensity and effect on different children, so you have to know where they are socially, emotionally, academically,” he said.

“I think it’s just important that we all work together as we bring children back into school, to begin creating a more typical world for children.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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