16 Montgomery Co. schools going virtual due to COVID related reasons

Tuesday evening, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) confirmed 16 schools will move to virtual instruction for 10 calendar days, starting this Thursday, January 20th. 

It appears none of the original 11 schools closed for in-person instruction when MCPS returned from winter break are included in this next round of closures announced.

The list of schools to go virtual on January 20th are:

  • Beall Elementary School
  • Briggs Chaney Middle School
  • Brookhaven Elementary School
  • Clopper Mill Elementary School
  • Captain James E. Daly Elementary School
  • Gaithersburg Elementary School
  • Glenallan Elementary School
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School
  • Lakelands Park Middle School
  • Neelsville Middle School
  • Paint Branch High School
  • RICA – John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents
  • Sargent Shriver Elementary School
  • Twinbrook Elementary School
  • Watkins Mill Elementary School
  • Whetstone Elementary School

Much earlier in the day, MCPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight told the County Council, meeting as the Board of Health, that "some more" schools would be going virtual. She stopped short of naming those schools. A schools spokesperson told FOX 5 the school system was waiting for the individual school notifications to go out before sharing the public announcement at around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

FOX 5 did view the community letter sent to Lakelands Park Middle School (LMPS). That announcement included a 9-page PDF with some more details on why the decision was made to close this school building to in-person learning.

"LPMS goes virtual on Thursday. Today – in person. Tomorrow – in person. Thursday – nope, not safe. Can someone explain how this make sense???" tweeted the account: "Montgomery County Watchdog."

Another social media users, who is identified as Brigid Howe, wrote, "I actually really like the table with the information about why the decision was made. Good communications work! I’d like the rubric to be shared publicly, so we can know if we’re creeping up on it."

Montgomery County community conversation falls flat for MCPS parents, students

The changes come some council members are now defending recent MCPS return-to-school decisions. In Tuesday’s virtual meeting, Education and Culture Committee Chair, Councilmember Craig Rice, pointed toward the state and federal government when it comes to local school decisions.

"When people say that the goal posts are moving, they are. And the goal posts are being moved by the state every single day in terms of us coming-up every with different ways in which we can try and approach and address the situation but then are told, ‘no, that doesn’t work, that’s not okay.’ And then when asked for guidance at both the state and federal level, I was just in a meeting with the White House the other day and I asked the question, ‘What are the suggested [metrics] for when a school should close due to a COVID outbreak?’ No one could answer," said Rice, who also said the state could not answer when presented with the question.

The Education and Culture Committee is expected to hold an emergency session at 10 a.m. on Wednesday to delve into more MCPS COVID-related details.

The Interim Superintendent also asked the county’s health department to assume all MCPS contact tracing duties so staff can return their focus to school duties – and for 190,000 rapid COVID tests every other week.