Preparations continue for Montgomery County, Maryland, schools as they gear up for learning in the fall, which, for many students, will be a blast from the pre-pandemic past.
“We’re excited and ready to welcome all of our students and staff back in the fall,” Diane Morris, associate superintendent in Montgomery County Public Schools Office of Teaching, said.
During an update for the county’s school board Thursday, Morris said students can expect full classrooms and buses, as capacity limits disappear. Bell times, bus schedules and the length of the school day will also return to where they were before the pandemic began.
Students will be allowed to share items once again, and the process of quarantining books and other library items until they are cleaned will end. Students who have school-issued Chromebooks won’t need to share those, as those will remain with the student until they leave the school system or are upgraded.
Hallways will be open to two-way foot traffic, and high-schoolers will see the return of open lunch.
When it comes to masks, Morris said that will depend on current guidance in the fall from health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state, and Montgomery County. Currently, masks must still be worn indoors, but outside, they will only be “highly recommended” and not required.
The school system has held several vaccination events that were open to teachers and students. As of Thursday, 70% of students 12 years of age and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
For students and their families still concerned about making an in-person return, the county’s virtual academy will be an option, but not for everyone. Students must apply and state the reasons for needing to attend class online.
Kara Trenkamp, the school system’s Director of Instructional Technology and Learning Management Systems, said 500 students have already applied for online learning only; and work to examine those applications has began. The application deadline is July 2.
While elements, such as a student’s grades before and during the pandemic, will factor into whether a student is accepted to the virtual academy, the school system has not yet laid out what exactly would lead to a student not being allowed to learn from home.
Trenkamp said the school system is also still waiting for state approval for its virtual academy. When it comes to how it will work, she said online classes will line up with in-person ones.
“It will mirror the brick-and-mortar school calendar,” Trenkamp said.
That means students who decide to make the switch to in-person learning for the second semester won’t be behind their classmates when they return to the classroom.
Also on Thursday, the school system passed its $2.756 billion operating budget, which is $24.3 million more than was originally projected. The increase comes from additional money from the state, local and federal level, the school system said.
The new budget also includes $30 million to fund a 2 1/2-year plan to address issues created by the pandemic, including learning disruptions especially at poverty-impacted schools, support for staff and students, and support for digital learning.
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