More than half of Montgomery County Public Schools showing COVID-19 'outbreak'

Around 60% of Montgomery County’s 209 public schools are now reporting a COVID-19 "outbreak," according to a new color-categorized database the school leaders announced earlier this week.

Download the FOX 5 DC News App for Local Breaking News and Weather

The database identifies schools in "green," "yellow" and "red." Schools in "red" are schools where over 5% of unrelated students and staff have reported testing positive for COVID-19 in the past 14-days.

In a Jan. 4 virtual news conference, MCPS’s Interim Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight announced the first 11 schools hitting "red" would close for 14-days, going to virtual instruction starting this week. This 5% metric is not supposed to trigger a school closure, but a review of that school’s status.

The number of positive cases reported at each school is posted at the top of the COVID-19 dashboard by 7 p.m. each school day. When the list updated Wednesday night, that number of schools in "red" shot up to over 120.

What many parents found not as clear was when MCPS would make another announcement on what schools would be closed next. This left some parents scrambling on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, trying to confirm whether their school was next.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Montgomery County Public Schools testing new system to curb COVID-19 threat

Others took action on their own, noting the increase in COVID-19 spread.

"It’s scary, but you know, I think a lot of the schools around here are going through the same thing, but I think they’re doing all they can, for the most part, you know to try and keep the kids safe," said Brooke Grove Elementary School parent Phil Kominski.

Kominski told FOX 5 he kept his child home on Thursday. His child’s school, Brooke Grove Elementary, showed the highest COVID-19 spread on the database at more than 10%.

Not knowing what would happen next, and since his child was not in school Thursday, Kominski said a teacher had instructed him to pick up his child’s books just in case Brooke Grove moves to virtual instruction.  

Whether parents want schools closed, opened or lie somewhere in the middle, many parents voiced similar frustrations on how MCPS is handling the communication on this 14-day virtual transition plan.  

FOX 5 asked whether any more school closure announcements would come on Thursday. The MCPS Spokesperson responded in an email:

"We have our promised Thursday message in preparation, if there are updates to schools moving to virtual learning we will announce that."

READ MORE: Montgomery County Executive calls on state for emergency declaration as vaccine passport considered

No follow-up questions were answered. An official with the county council, who works closely with MCPS, told FOX 5 a formal list should be provided on Friday morning.

Many parents are also frustrated from the lack of communication on rapid testing to a lack of communication on what other factors were used to determine the first 11 MCPS schools would close for 14-days.

Some asked where the 14-day limit came from and some are also questioning claims by MCPS that the state provided them with the 5% metric.

FOX 5 presented this question to the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, and was sent a link where state guidance identifies a "school outbreak" as 5% or more unrelated students, teachers and/or staff have confirmed COVID-19 within a 14-day period with a minimum of 10 unrelated students, teachers and/or staff.

This guidance, however, does not instruct school systems to close. There is some instruction on when to temporarily close schools found in the guidance provided in October 2021. Page 13 of that guidance notes the following: 

Other parents are frustrated school buildings are still open, but no teachers are available to teach. MCSP also confirmed it was aware of a Facebook message calling for a student sick-out on Thursday.

The message encouraged parents to identify their child as positive for COVID-19 and under contact information, write, "Infected by McKnight’s choices."

The MCPS spokesperson confirmed they were aware of the social media post and were monitoring the situation. The spokesperson did not reply when asked how many students were called out this way.  


"The surge we are experiencing in Montgomery County is a concern for all of us and we completely understand the concern parents may have and this is one key reason we rely on our mitigation strategies and our ongoing consultation with local and state health officials," MCPS Spokesperson Chris Cram said in an email.