School system moves grades 4-12 to remote instruction


As of Monday, Sept. 14, most students in grades 4-12 in Montgomery County’s public schools have moved to online instruction until at least Sept. 28.

The change comes on the heels of a conference call that determined a “significant” spike in positive COVID-19 cases among the students seemed to be “inevitable” unless change was made. Currently, there are no positive cases in the county schools.

The conference call itself was initiated by members of the Montgomery County Public Health Task Force, which was created in March with the goal of providing local residents and communities with accurate, up-to-date and effective information about COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. The task force included officials from local health, public safety, education and government agencies.

Thursday, Sept. 17, task force members Anthony Wilson, Blacksburg Police Chief, and Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, contacted Dr. Mark Miear, the county school superintendent, and recommended that the public schools scale back the number of students attending school out of concern for the possibility of a COVID-19 spike. The subsequent conference call was attended by Dr. Miear, School Board Chair Gunin Kiran, School Board Vice-Chair Marti Graham, Deputy Superintendent Annie Whitaker, Assistant Superintendent Tommy Kranz, Director of Student Services and Safety Jason Garretson and Director of Communication and Community Relations Brenda Drake.

Dr. Miear discussed the different instructional levels within the MCPS reopening plan, and all parties agreed that Phase II, Level 2 with most of the students receiving their instruction online and not physically in the school buildings would be appropriate for the next two weeks. Dr. Miear then reached out to the school board via telephone and email. He shared that the task force was recommending a reduced level of services and provided the board members with a recommended level of instruction (Phase II, Level 2).

Six of the seven school board members stated agreement with moving to this phase for two weeks starting Monday, Sept. 14. One board member stated a desire to move the district to all-remote using one of the levels within Phase 1. With the majority vote of the school board, MCPS implemented Phase II, Level 2 instruction.

Students in grades 4-12 will receive their instruction remotely on their current schedule. The difference is that the classes will be conducted online instead of in-person.

The following students will be able to attend school in person on their current schedule:

students with an IEP (K-12), students who are English Language Learners (K-12), students without access to the internet (K-12), students of employees (K-12) and all students in grades PK-3 as they are currently scheduled.

Free meals will be available for pickup at the high schools between 10:30 and 12:30 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. To help with meal preparation, please email the respective cafeteria managers to let them know how many meals will be picked up. Students will receive one breakfast and one lunch on Monday, Thursday and Friday. Students will receive two breakfasts and two lunches on Tuesdays because the cafeterias are closed on Wednesdays. Students arriving at school to pick up a meal should call the school to arrange for a no-contact pickup.

The projection from the Virginia Department of Health is that new positive COVID cases will start to decrease before Monday, Sept. 21. That should result in several days of decreasing positive tests in Montgomery County before Sept. 28. The hope is that on Sept. 28 the school system will be able to return to the Phase 3, Level II instructional schedule that was in place before Monday.

Other items to keep in mind through Sept. 28: MCPS child care centers will stay open, buses will continue to run their current schedules to pick up the students who are eligible to be in school, parents can contact the school to schedule medication pickup and no extracurricular activities, including athletics, will be held.



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