MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — More than 5,600 COVID-19 cases were reported among Montgomery County Public Schools students and staff since leaving for winter break almost two weeks ago, school system officials confirm. Nearly a dozen schools will begin the new year with virtual learning.

MCPS is using a new system to track cases among students and staff in its more than 200 schools, using a green, yellow, red model. Eleven schools are already in the “red zone” and will start the second half of the school year with virtual learning for two weeks, and dozens more schools are on the verge of a shutdown.

“So, we have 89 schools in the yellow category. That means between 3 percent of 5 percent of their students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 [in the last 14 days.] They are approaching the 5 percent mark that would put them in the red category,” said MCPS Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight.

The new model puts schools into those three categories based on case rates, with the red category representing schools where 5 percent or more of the staff and study body testing positive, triggering an evaluation for a potential shift to virtual learning. The yellow category is for schools with between 3 to 5 percent of students and staff testing positive in the last 14 days. The green zone is for schools where fewer than 3 percent of students and staff have tested positive in the last 14 days.

School leaders announced the following schools as “red zone” schools moving to virtual learning on January 5 are:

  • Rock Terrace School
  • Cannon Road Elementary School
  • North Chevy Chase Elementary School
  • Hallie Wells Middle School
  • Monocacy Elementary School
  • Roberto Clemente Middle School
  • Forest Knolls Elementary School
  • Waters Landing Elementary School
  • Rosemont Elementary School
  • Seneca Valley High School
  • Sherwood Elementary School

Superintendent McKnight says shutting down all county schools won’t solve the problem.

“If we were shutting down our government, if we were putting in capacity limits in other spaces in our community, I would be concerned about putting our families at risk this way. But we’re not doing that,” said McKnight.

MCPS says it will update its online data for each school every night before 7 p.m. to keep parents in the loop.