2022 | Schools

Nearly 12% of Sherwood Elementary students, staff positive for COVID-19

Sandy Spring school returns to masking as cases rise

share this

Sherwood Elementary School

via MCPS

Sherwood Elementary School in Sandy Spring has reverted back to a masking requirement as COVID-19 spreads among its population.

In the past 10 days, more than one out of every 10 people in the school — including staff members and students — has tested positive for the virus, according to Montgomery County Public Schools data. As of Tuesday morning, 64 cases had been reported, equal to 11.6% of the students and staff, easily the highest percentage in the district’s 209 schools.

In response, Sherwood Elementary is asking everyone to again wear masks indoors. It is the first school to revert back to masking since the districtwide mandate ended in February, according to Heather Dublinske, who helps lead MCPS’ COVID-19 response.

Dublinske said in an email that there are “dozens” of other classrooms or grades at other schools that have been asked to mask in response to rising cases, but that Sherwood has the only schoolwide mandate.

Across MCPS, 2,643 positive cases have been reported in the past 10 days, including more than 450 new cases Monday.

Public health leaders across the country have largely turned their focus away from case numbers and now look more closely at hospitalizations and deaths as an indicator for the severity of the pandemic’s effects. But officials have cautioned that the number of cases is likely higher than official numbers indicate because of the prevalence of at-home tests.

Montgomery County is in the “medium” level of transmission, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which relies on hospital admissions per 100,000 people and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

MCPS reports the number of cases that students and employees report each day on an online data dashboard. MCPS has never reported how many employees may have died of COVID-19, and has declined to answer Bethesda Beat questions about such data, citing privacy restrictions.

According to that dashboard, 14 schools have had more than 4% of their staff and students test positive in the past 10 days.

Those schools are:
• Sherwood Elementary (64 cases, 11.6%)
• Woodlin Elementary, Silver Spring (45 cases, 7.3%)
• Diamond Elementary, Gaithersburg (59 cases, 7.2%)
• Westover Elementary, Silver Spring (23 cases, 7.2%)
• Kensington Parkwood Elementary, Kensington (47 cases, 7%)
• Wyngate Elementary, Bethesda (50 cases, 6.5%)
• Westbrook Elementary, Bethesda (19 cases, 5.7%)
• Carderock Springs Elementary, Bethesda (20 cases, 5.3%)
• Ritchie Park Elementary, Rockville (22 cases, 5.2%)
• Bradley Hills Elementary, Bethesda (27 cases, 5.1%)
• Ashburton Elementary, Bethesda (47 cases, 5%)
• Westland Middle, Bethesda (43 cases, 4.8%)
• Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary, Rockville (35 cases, 4.5%)
• Thomas W. Pyle Middle, Bethesda (61 cases, 4.2%)

Districtwide, the rate is 1.4%.

Some have questioned the accuracy of the online dashboard, saying it underreports the number of cases, compared to communications from the principals of their schools.

Still, the dashboard paints a picture of the largest and longest sustained spike in cases since winter break.

In a community message last week, MCPS said that as more cases are reported, classrooms or schools with more than three positives in the past 10 days may be asked to temporarily revert to wearing masks.

In the message, MCPS wrote that students who are not “up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations or boosters may be required to quarantine.”

MCPS this month also stopped contact tracing when positive cases are reported. At the time, MCPS said students — including those who are not vaccinated — would no longer be asked by the district to quarantine after an exposure to the virus.

The district’s online dashboard showed Tuesday morning that nearly 1,200 students were in quarantine.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com