2020 | Schools

60% of MCPS students will remain fully virtual second semester

Families of other 40% of students chose hybrid model including in-person classes

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Three-fifths of Montgomery County Public Schools students will remain in a virtual-only model for the second semester, according to the final results of a questionnaire sent to families.

In total, about 98,231 students will continue to take classes from home in the second semester — about 60% of the current enrollment.

That number includes students who chose that option in the survey and students who will be automatically assigned virtual instruction because their families did not respond to the survey.

In total, responses were submitted on behalf of 127,112 of the district’s approximately 161,583 students — about 79%.

Of those responses, 63,760 (50.2%) chose to not return to school buildings if they begin to reopen in January, as planned. The other 63,352 (49.8%) chose to participate in a mix of in-person and virtual lessons.

The approximately 34,471 students for which a preference was not chosen — they did not respond to the survey — will be automatically enrolled in the all-virtual model, according to school district officials. The move is to help the district plan its staffing and which schools will reopen.

MCPS has said it is likely that not all facilities will reopen at once.

The calculations are based on MCPS’ official enrollment, recorded Sept. 30. MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has said publicly that the district’s enrollment has fluctuated since that day, but a current count was not available Tuesday.

MCPS did not provide further breakdown of the survey results by grade, school level, demographics or geography.

The school board last week delayed the survey’s deadline by four days to give parents more time to respond. Between the original deadline and Monday’s final deadline, about 20,000 more people responded.

For families who chose to participate in face-to-face instruction, they will have a second chance to opt out.

Over the next few weeks, MCPS will build its plan for in-person instruction, including how many schools will open and how often students will have lessons from home.
The district will share its plan with families the first week of January. Then, from Jan. 11 to 15, families will confirm if they still want to return to buildings.

No changes to families’ selections can be made between Jan. 18 and 29, so staff members can finalize plans.

Small groups of the district’s “highest-risk” students, like those in special education programs and English language learners,” are scheduled to begin a phased return to buildings Jan. 12. General education students will follow, beginning Feb. 1, according to the district’s current plan.

The reopening plan, though, relies on improved COVID-19 data, which has trended poorly in recent weeks.

The reopening plan and the metrics that guide it are not final yet.

The school board last week delayed finalizing the plan in a unanimous vote. Board members pressed district leaders to take a second look at the reopening metrics to see if there can be more flexibility in bringing children back to schools, and to prioritize the return of the district’s youngest students.

The board is expected to take final action on the plan during a meeting Dec. 15.