Interim Superintendent Unveils Five-Point Plan for Further COVID Safety, Mitigation
The top priority for MCPS is keeping schools open while ensuring the safety of our students and staff. MCPS has made a number of improvements in school buildings and put health and safety procedures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. On Sept. 9, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to require all staff to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29, 2021. This important measure can help to reduce transmission of the virus in schools and the community.
After assessing the first two weeks of school and listening to parents and other stakeholders, Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight has developed a five-point plan that enhances and strengthens the mitigation strategies already in place to keep students and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This plan includes hiring an in-house health/medical expert; establishing a COVID operations advisory committee; creating a COVID-19 dashboard with individual school data, launching a new campaign; “Say Yes to the Test;” to encourage parents/guardians to consent to COVID-19 testing for their children; and providing more support to schools.
- Appoint an in-house health/medical professional
This position will serve as the school district’s health/medical expert and will be the primary liaison with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Maryland Department of Health, and other health agencies. In collaboration with DHHS, the person in this role will coordinate MCPS’ COVID-19 response. Some of the responsibilities of this position will include:
- Review recommendations from federal, state and local health agencies
- Examine emerging COVID-19 data
- Assess MCPS COVID-19 data
- Provide guidance regarding multi-layer prevention strategies
- Make recommendations regarding isolation, quarantine and contact tracing
- Establish a COVID-19 operations advisory committee
The committee will comprise MCPS staff and students, representatives from the employee associations, MCCPTA and community organizations. We will request a DHHS representative to also serve on the committee. Committee feedback will help guide the district’s work in responding to COVID-19 throughout the year.
- Create a COVID-19 dashboard
The dashboard will provide systemwide and individual school data on positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff, as well as the number of students in quarantine.
- Launch an outreach campaign to increase the number of students who are tested for COVID-19
Testing is an important prevention strategy, particularly among students younger than 12 who are not eligible to be vaccinated. MCPS is offering free screening tests to students in Grades PreK-6, with plans to expand to all other grades in the coming weeks. With parental consent, a random sample of students will be tested on a weekly basis. The “Say Yes to the Test” outreach campaign will be crucial to reaching the goal of every MCPS family giving their consent for the screening and rapid tests. Screening testing can limit the spread of the virus, even in the absence of visible symptoms. In addition, new tests now available in all health rooms, will be used when a student has COVID-19 symptoms. These rapid tests will help to minimize the number of students who have to quarantine. MCPS will work with community partners to expand the reach of this campaign.
- Provide additional support to help with schools’ COVID-19 response efforts
To ensure minimal disruption to teaching and learning in schools, targeted support will be provided to assist with COVID-related issues.