Montgomery County schools look ahead to virtual learning


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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WDVM) — Montgomery County Public Schools announced its decision to start the school year online, with the option of sending students back to class later in the fall.

There’s a lot involved with sending students into classrooms this fall, and MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith says it isn’t a matter of when students return this year, but if they return at all.

“If there’s a dramatic increase in cases, we may not get to get in our schools by November to have brick and mortar experiences. We’re going to wait and see,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday.

The school system is relying on state guidance and public health data to make the decision to have in-person classes. On Wednesday, Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said he’d like to see a significant decline in case numbers before students return to school buildings.

“The data right now does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe to do at this moment. We need to see little-to-no infections before we look at sending students back,” Dr. Gayles explained.

Even though the school system has had the summer to work through issues related to remote instruction, leaders say this plan won’t work if everyone isn’t on board, acknowledging that virtual learning puts a burden on parents.

“We’re going to use what we learned in the spring and what we’re learning now in the summer to really find more and more effective ways to support our parents,” said Smith.

Though the transition in the spring brought challenges and hardships, leaders say the impact of the switch hasn’t been completely negative.

“It dragged us into the 21st Century. Whether we’re in brick and mortar schools or we’re in this online environment, we need to have students engaged digitally all the time and connected because this is the way the world works,” said Smith. “We’ve also found that some students prefer the remote model, though I don’t think that’s the majority of our students.”

When it comes to extra-curricular activities like school-sanctioned sports, leaders say no decision has been made. They said on Wednesday they expect to know more by the end of the month.

Montgomery County fall sports teams typically begin practices in mid-August.


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