MCPS Board of Education discusses plans for school year

Students+spend+lunch+with+friends+inside+the+main+gym+due+to+a+rainy+day%2C+while+trying+to+social+distance.

Photo by Brett Halpern

Students spend lunch with friends inside the main gym due to a rainy day, while trying to social distance.

The MCPS Board of Education has recently made decisions regarding how the school year will proceed considering the current pandemic and other challenges the county faces. 

All around the country COVID-19 protocols are being increased and reinstated as the long-term efficacy of vaccines is questioned and new strains are discovered. MCPS made a decision prior to the start of the school year that there will be a mask mandate for all people inside school buildings. Despite pushback all around the country, Board of Education member Lynne Harris said, “There have almost been no problems in response to the mask mandate…the MCPS board was in complete consensus about the implementation of a comprehensive mask mandate and the response I’ve seen from families, students and staff is overwhelmingly positive.”

The Maryland State Department of Education and State Board of Education currently mandate that every school district provide a minimum of 180 days of in-person instruction. Following this decision, the MCPS school board announced that there will be no move to fully virtual instruction unless it is mandated by the state government. Senior Jay Bhanot said, “It was a little uncomfortable at first, being back at school with so many people, and as much as I would like to be in school I want to make sure that if the COVID-19 conditions get too bad the school board will take that into account.”  

Most recently, the county has decided that rapid COVID-19 tests will be used in all schools to minimize student quarantines. MCPS will be providing these tests for every school. Senior Keerthi Pabmanabhan said, “In theory I think it’s a really good idea but I think the accuracy of the rapid COVID-19 tests needs to be taken into account.” 

Originally the county board had decided that there would not be a vaccine requirement for teachers but this decision is now being changed so that all MCPS staff are required to be vaccinated. At first it was just strongly encouraged that anyone who is able to get vaccinated should but it is now a requirement unless there is a medical exemption. Harris said, “As a nurse and public health disease control professional, everyone should be vaccinated. We live in a time where medical science has created a miracle drug in record time to stop the spread of a disease…so I am in full support of a vaccine mandate.”

This disease is real, and our youngest learners are most vulnerable…it’s our job to protect them.”

— Lynne Harris

All students who are participating in winter and spring sports will need to show proof of vaccination prior to participating. This is being done to minimize risk during these activities and support team safety. Bhanot said, “As a cross country runner, I can not avoid coming in close contact with my team and other teams so having everyone vaccinated will make me feel more comfortable.”

The greatest risks are for elementary school students who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. The combination of more vaccinated teachers and regular rapid tests is what the county is doing to better protect them. “This disease is real, and our youngest learners are most vulnerable…it’s our job to protect them,” Harris said.