Parents in Montgomery County upset unvaccinated students being forced to quarantine

Due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, Sherwood Elementary School in Montgomery County brought masking back for 10 days. 

According to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)' COVID-19 dashboard, nearly 12% of the elementary school tested positive in the past 10 days. 

Out of over 200 county public schools, Diamond Elementary recorded the second-most – nearly 8% of the school – positive cases during the same timeframe.  Some parents are okay with masks being required again but are frustrated with the quarantine policy. 

Sherwood parents shared a letter emailed to families where an outbreak was identified in their child’s classroom (an outbreak is identified as three or more positive cases in a 14-day period). 

Part of the email dated Monday, May 9, read: "All unvaccinated students, and those who are not up to date on eligible COVID boosters, will be required to quarantine at home for 5 days and may return to school on Monday, May 16.  Upon their return, students must wear a mask during school on days 6-10, until Friday, May 20.  (Note, these dates are subject to change if additional positive cases arise.)." 

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

Maureen Fox told FOX 5 that the entire 5th grade was impacted by the quarantine policy last week. Her daughter was among the students identified as "unvaccinated" and forced to stay home due to Fox not providing her child’s vaccine status for privacy reasons. 

"I am exhausted trying to fight and argue and honestly, just let my kid be a kid and have normal access to education," Fox said. "I mean today was her return to school day and she didn’t’ really want to go. She said, ‘What am I going to tell everybody, why was I out?’ You know, ‘I wasn’t sick. Didn’t have COVID. So, what do I say to my friends?’ It’s just barely creating a hostile environment for my kids."

The Montgomery County mother claims her child did not test positive and never showed symptoms. She was also frustrated that during that five-day quarantine, there was no virtual instruction for her child (virtual instruction ended this school year) and no test-to-stay option available. 

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Multiple parents whose children were quarantined feel the school system is unfairly targeting unvaccinated students when those who are vaccinated can also test positive. 

"What they put in place last week hasn't been effective. They're still having cases and I just wonder where it’s going to end if the cases continue to climb," Fox said. "Will my kid be sent home again on a day’s notice? We just need to learn how to live with this. Come up with a consistent policy that’s rooted in science and that makes sense."

Kim Rice, a guardian of a 4th Grader, told FOX 5 she can understand the frustration when a child is unable to learn virtually for a week. 

"You know I actually think the school has been doing a pretty good job because, I mean in my case, the teacher and principal have communicated things," she said. 

Ticona Fillah agreed the school is doing the best it can.  She's the parent of one vaccinated student and one child who is too young to get vaccinated. However, Fillah also said that she 
"didn’t realize that there was a guidance that if your kid is unvaccinated, that they still have to quarantine."

"I think once the cases started surging, and we started getting notices from the school. That’s when I was made aware what the policy was." 

FOX 5 confirmed MCPS is not the only school system able to implement a quarantine for unvaccinated students or those not up-to-date on boosters if a school outbreak is determined. 

MCPS stated this guidance more explicitly in language tucked into a community message shared last Thursday. 

Montgomery County schools revise COVID-19 quarantine policy

When FOX 5 asked the school district's spokesperson Chris Cram about the policy, we were told – to be clear – that MCPS does not decide these policies. The school system continues to follow guidance coming from the CDC, state, and county health departments. 

Currently, there are at least 34 students reported to be in active quarantine in the past 10 days based on the MCPS COVID-19 dashboard. 

Cram clarified that the students who are listed on the dashboard are those identified as close contacts and unvaccinated. They are not isolating due to positive COVID-19 tests.  

FOX 5 was directed to a link on the MCPS website, which leads to state guidance issued in March. The state Memorandum issued by the Maryland Department of Health and State Board of Education links to the CDC’s website, where the Center for Disease Control and Prevention directs those who are unvaccinated or not up to date on boosters to quarantine for at least five days.