Montgomery Co. parents frustrated as new school policy leaves about 1,000 students, staff in quarantine

With just four days into the new school year, many parents in Montgomery County are upset with MCPS and their recently updated quarantine policy.

As of Sept. 3, officials say about 1,000 students and staff are in quarantine right now. 

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Before school started, MCPS’s guidance stated that if students are exposed to another student, who tests positive for COVID-19, then everyone who may have been exposed or come into contact with that student will need to quarantine for 10 days.

But many parents who have been sounding off on social media say that just within the last few days, a student who shows symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, at their school or in a classroom, isn’t being tested before the school district decides to send everyone who may have been exposed to that student—home, to quarantine.

"We are in the beginning of September so what’s going to happen when the cold season starts?," asked, Nikki Posnack, whose daughter’s class she said, was sent home due to another student displaying COVID like symptoms.

"This is going to be a never-ending cycle where classes are just being quarantined and children are just in Zoom school which is really disappointing." 

MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan Friday, that their recently updated guidance on quarantining includes, "unvaccinated students who have been identified as having close contact (less than 3 feet in the classroom, less than 6 feet while eating or outdoors for 15 or more minutes during a 24-hour period) with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19, including fever of 100.4 or higher, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea or vomiting, new onset of severe headache and new onset of loss of taste or smell."

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Onijala went on to explain that students who are sent home after having close contact with a COVID-19 symptomatic individual may return if the suspected case tests negative. 

In the absence of a negative COVID-19 test or alternative diagnosis, all students will be required to quarantine for a full 10 days. This means MCPS will now quarantine those who are positive or exposed to a positive individual and those who are symptomatic or exposed to a symptomatic person.  

Some parents told Khan that this is frustrating because not all families are able to arrange last-minute changes to their own schedule or be able to find someone to watch their kids in quarantine while they return to in-person work or are having to fulfill other obligations that require them to be outside of the home.

"MCPS is all about equity but this is the most inequitable policy they can have," said Margery Smelkinson, another parent whose son’s class was sent home due to another student displaying symptoms.

"They need to have something in place to really try and minimize these quarantines.

Until you are confirmed positive, the rest of the class is supposed to be fine and there is also this frustration that they’re sending a whole class home whereas they are supposed to be following the CDC guidance that says if there is universal masking and frequent distancing, no one has to quarantine."

You can read more about MCPS' updated quarantine police here