Does the MCPS COVID quarantine policy go too far?

After spending almost a year and a half in virtual learning, MCPS has reverted to a normal in-person schedule. However, this has not been without risks such as COVID exposure. Due to these risks, MCPS has implemented a thorough and constantly changing quarantine policy for students and staff who test positive for the virus or are exposed to someone who does. A common question that has been asked is: Are these regulations too strict?

The answer is yes. Although the latest iteration of the COVID quarantine policy was released on Oct. 1 and features more relaxed regulations than the previous policy, it can still leave students without access to in-person education for 10 or more days. 

Instead of a 14-day quarantining period when someone tests positive for COVID, the new policy requires only a 10-day period. In addition, fully vaccinated individuals (two weeks after the final vaccine shot) no longer have to quarantine at all if they come in close contact with an individual who tests positive. Furthermore, unvaccinated individuals now only have to quarantine for 10 days as opposed to the previous 14 day requirement.

It was detrimental to my mental health to catch up because of all the work I missed in addition to all the current work I needed to do.”

— Jai Ahuja

Ten days may not seem like a very long time, but that can be up to eight school days of schoolwork that a student has to catch up on by themselves. This can unfairly leave students behind in their classes for the rest of the year. “I missed two days of school due to waiting on covid test results. This resulted in me needing to forfeit my lunch and advisory periods Monday through Thursday and even needing to come after school on two days to make up quizzes and work I missed. It was detrimental to my mental health to catch up because of all the work I missed in addition to all the current work I needed to do,” sophomore Jai Ahuja said.

The main reason for the arguable premature in-person return in the first place was to improve the quality of education for students after a year of lackluster virtual learning. However, if students are stuck at home for 10 days and have no access to their classes, isn’t the quality of their education even worse than it was during virtual learning?

At the secondary school level, including high schools, students have the opportunity to attend live check-ins with their teachers at a time separately from their peers. This may seem like a helpful option, but it is not feasible for students to have enough time in these check-ins to have an equivalent education to the education in classrooms. It is also unfair to expect teachers to work outside of their normal hours when more efficient alternatives are available.

One possible solution is placing students who are quarantining into Virtual Academy classes. This method would be better than the current system in place, but if the Virtual Academy class is either ahead or behind the quarantined student’s class due to an alternative curriculum, the student would not benefit much. According to the Bethesda Magazine, “In an email to Bethesda Beat on Monday, MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said MCPS has purchased a curriculum specifically designed for virtual classes.”

For this reason, the most effective solution would be to allow quarantined students to tune into their classes virtually or to have teachers record their lessons and post them online. The latter would also entail the added advantage of benefiting the other students in the class as well.