D.C., Montgomery County schools update COVID plans ahead of winter break

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — COVID case rates are on the rise again, leading Prince George’s County Schools to totally shut down buildings until at least the middle of January.

D.C. Public Schools have already had to shut down several individual schools due to high case rates, and school officials in Montgomery County say they have a plan to keep kids in the classroom.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Acting Superintendent Dr. Monifa McKnight said, “There is no plan to close all MCPS schools, let me repeat, there is no plan to close all MCPS schools. I want to be very clear about that.”

McKnight says the school system’s ability to keep kids in the classroom relies on testing, and less than half of MCPS families have opted in to testing for students at school.

“We need a much larger number of families to participate to maximize the testing’s effectiveness as a strategy to keep school safe for our students and staff,” said McKnight.

As MCPS’s current guidance stands if more than 5% of a particular school’s students and staff test positive, the school system will work with the health department to determine whether a two-week closure is necessary.

In nearby Washington, D.C., five schools have moved to the virtual model in the last few days. D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) leaders announced plans to extend winter break by two days, adding Jan. 3 and Jan. 4, to allow for pick up and drop off of rapid tests for students.

“We know school is the best place for students to be right now and we know school is the best place for students to be supported. We’ll keep them in school and support them along the way as we close out our break for winter,” said DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

Testing upon return to school won’t be mandatory for DCPS students, but it will be strongly encouraged.

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