MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Approximately 1,000 students and staff are currently in quarantine at Montgomery County Public Schools, which faced a first week rife with challenges, according to the schools’ public information officer and a letter to the community from Superintendent Monifa McKnight.
Students had their first day back in classrooms on Monday. The district currently requires all students, teachers and staff to mask up, regardless of vaccination status, when entering school buildings and on buses. Employees of the district are also required to submit proof of their vaccination status or agree to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing.
The district has since updated its quarantine guidelines. The policies currently in place are outlined below.
Unvaccinated students who have been in close contact with an individual who is displaying any single symptom of COVID-19 will be sent home.
Students who are sent home because they have been in close contact with an individual with symptoms may return if the individual with symptoms tests negative, or has an alternate diagnosis from a medical provider.
In the absence of a negative COVID-19 test or alternate medical diagnosis of that individual, all students who were in close contact with the individual are required to quarantine for 10 days.
As a result of this guidance from the county, MCPS will quarantine:
An individual who tests positive
Those who are unvaccinated and in close contact to an individual who tests positive or has one or more COVID-19 symptoms
An individual with one or more COVID-19 symptoms
Close contact is:
Being 3 feet or less away in the classroom for 15 or more minutes during a 24-hour period, regardless of mask use.
Being 6 feet or less away while eating or outdoors for 15 minutes or more during a 24-hour period, regardless of mask use.
COVID-19 symptoms include:
Fever of 100.4 degrees or higher
Diarrhea or vomiting
New onset of severe headache
New onset of loss of taste or smell
MCPS also specified what quarantine looks like for students and how the district will continue to ensure their education continues.
“MCPS will minimize learning disruption when students are in isolation or quarantine. At the elementary level, individual students in isolation or quarantine will receive live, virtual instruction from a teacher on a separate schedule from their peers; if an entire class is in quarantine, the teacher will provide virtual instruction for the class. At the secondary level, students in isolation or quarantine will have opportunities to connect with their teachers for live check-ins.”
Other first-week obstacles included longer bus routes, significant traffic congestion across the county, individual school closures due to water main breaks and power outages and a system-wide early release due to severe weather, according to McKnight.
“I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to improve our processes, recruit more bus drivers, hire more teachers, and get adjusted to new routines,” she said in the emailed announcement.