MCPS parents ask why school system lags behind with phase-in staging for in-person learning 

Many families in Montgomery County are gearing up to send most kids back for in-person learning beginning this Monday.

Even with Montgomery County Public Schools continuing to provide updates on their reopening plans, many parents have said they still have questions.

READ MORE: FOX 5 cameras tour a Montgomery County middle school a week before students are set to return

One of the most common questions being asked by parents is, why is MCPS lagging behind with its phase-in roll out? – to the point where a lot of kids won’t be returning to in-person learning until mid-to-late April. 

"Other districts, other counties and the rest of the country have been able to reopen before us and also reopen on average maybe two to three weeks getting all their students back, whereas Montgomery County is taking two months and I don’t think it’s necessarily a safety issue," said Lavanya Sithanandam, a parent of two MCPS students. "To drag it out like that is only doing a disservice to these students who urgently need to get back into the classroom."

READ MORE: Montgomery County educators pass lack of confidence resolution over school reopening plan

During a Thursday afternoon briefing on the return to in-person learning at the joint Education and Culture and Health and Human Services Committee, some county council members brought up the same concern.

Superintendent Jack Smith responded and said that he is not able to bring everyone back for all five days. He said that MCPS has to prioritize bringing back groups of younger kids and those who require special education and assistance. 

READ MORE: Parents applaud return to in-person learning but question presence of 'classroom monitors'

In a separate response from MCPS spokeswoman, Gboyinde Onijala told FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan that the Board of Education discussed this topic on Tuesday and shared that they would discuss and review potential acceleration of the timeline at their March 23 meeting. 

"We believe the current timeline keeps safety as the priority and is reflective of space needs within school buildings in order to adhere to CDC guidelines on distancing," Onijala said.

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Another question that came up during Thursday’s briefing was, what would a typical school day look like?

Smith said that students taking the school bus will see masks and hand sanitizers available on the bus.

Every family will receive a thermometer to check their child’s temperature before the student gets on to the school bus or comes into the classroom. 

Students will not be moving about freely in buildings, meaning they won’t be able to go to the bathroom or the nurse’s office on their own and instead will be escorted by a class monitor. 

Another concern that some other MCPS parents have brought up during some of these updates is whether they will get to know if their child’s teacher has been vaccinated. 

Helen Nixon, associate superintendent, said that vaccination is not a condition of employment and that MCPS is not at liberty to disclose who has or has not received the vaccine as that is medically confidential and cannot be disclosed.