Montgomery Co. school board: Hundreds still on waitlist for in-person learning, rethinking SROs

Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland still have hundreds of students who want to return to classrooms now but are stuck on a waitlist.

A total of 615 students across Montgomery County were waiting for schools to get them back into classrooms as of Wednesday morning. On March 31, there were more than 15,000 students wait-listed.

“We had schools that had sometimes 80% of their total population wanting to return,” said Janet Wilson, chief of teaching, learning and schools for Montgomery County, during a school board meeting on Tuesday.

She said 342 — a majority — of the wait-listed children are elementary school students, followed by 129 at middle schools and 144 in high schools.

“In some of those schools, there continues to be a waitlist because of the space constraints,” Wilson said. “When we updated the board recently, one of the things that we indicated was if a school had a waitlist, they needed to continue to work on it.”

In April, Superintendent Jack Smith said that 42% of schools have no waitlist at all.

The number of students currently on the waitlist represents less than 1% of the county’s student body, Wilson added.

Montgomery County’s fall reopening plans are still being finalized and include a five-day, in-person schedule for students, but it also includes a full-time, virtual learning program for pre-K to grade 12.

The school board also discussed school safety after school resource officers are being removed or relocated away from being positioned in the buildings.

The school board looked at how to include support services and mental health help instead of resource officers in schools at their recent meeting.

“The decision making has been taken out of our hands,” said school board member Patricia O’Neill.

She said they need to focus on using the funds they have to provide other resources like mental health support to students.

“It’s time for us to really, now that everyone is on board or moving in that direction, to really fight for the resources that we need to support our children in the buildings,” O’Neill said.

The school board will look at recommendations from county task forces, its own focus group and input from parents to come up with a Memorandum of Understanding on how to fulfill the state’s requirement of “adequate law enforcement” coverage in schools.

Board President Brenda Wolff said that while she agrees that school resource officers might not be necessary, she doesn’t want random police officers going into schools because she fears that would create problems for students of color.

“That’s going to be another situation which I can only describe best as calling and driving while Black,” Wolff said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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