Montgomery Co. schools report 10,000 COVID-19 cases ahead of policy change

Montgomery County, Maryland, public schools reported more than 10,000 COVID-19 cases ahead of their first classes of 2022.

Montgomery County Public Schools said that all but 11 schools remained in-person, though 126 schools have since crested above the county’s “red” COVID-19 designation.

The system tracks schools with red, yellow and green indicators across 14 days. Since Dec. 23, all but four schools in the district were in the yellow or red range.

Montgomery County Education Association president Jennifer Martin said that COVID-19 continues to disrupt education, but acknowledged that minority groups were most severely impacted by these challenges.

“But the pandemic has hit students from vulnerable and systemically neglected populations hardest, widening the opportunity gaps by limiting access to crucial resources and supports,” Martin wrote in a statement.



Reaction varied as Maryland’s largest school system navigated shifting from a formula for transitions to virtual learning to a case-by-case system.

A petition to the board of education also underlined the severe impact that a return to the classroom had on some groups. The petition, which approached 10,000 signatures as of Sunday morning, will be brought up by the current student member of the board of education, Hana O’Looney, on Jan. 13.

“This is a huge step for us as a community,” petition author Zoe Cantor wrote in an update. “I never would have thought this small petition I made out of frustration in our county would have gotten this far.”

However, some parents and advocates for keeping area schools open in person maintained that recently-changed policies shifting schools to virtual learning were arbitrary unless the impact of COVID-19 on operations was widespread.

“I think it’s a huge mistake if our county pushes over 60% of the schools within the district to virtual education,” Jennifer Reesman, who heads a parent group that advocates for keeping schools open, told WTOP’s news partners at NBC Washington.

However, one student said they didn’t understand the point of attending classes, and that the schools were “empty” due to the rapid increase in positive tests.

“So, it’s like, what’s the point of being there if it’s going to be, like, barely any teachers, not enough subs, and students aren’t even coming,” a Paint Branch High School senior said.

WTOP’s Jack Moore contributed to this report.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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