What to Know about MCPS Student Quarantine Protocol

In efforts to reduce the number of student absences from the classroom, Montgomery County Public schools (MCPS) revised its quarantine protocols three times since the start of the school year.

As defined by MCPS, close contact is being in a classroom setting for 15 minutes or more and less than 6 feet from someone who tests positive. Taken into effect on Nov. 8, the revision allows unvaccinated students determined to be “close contacts” to someone infected with COVID-19 to no longer require the 10-day quarantine after receiving a negative COVID test. Nonetheless, this only applies if students were wearing a face covering at the time of the exposure, and have consented to participate in the school’s screening testing program. 

Although this new revision leaves the door open to unvaccinated students to skip quarantine, they still cannot participate in high-risk school-sponsored activities. This includes indoor or outdoor sports, singing, and most instrumental activities.

If an unvaccinated student is exposed to someone who tested positive to COVID-19 when not wearing masks, such as during lunch, MCPS is implementing the Test-to-Stay program. Rather than having to quarantine for 10 days and self-monitor for 14 days, this new change will allow close contact students to come to school and take rapid COVID-19 tests for five days. If all rapid tests come back negative, the student will be allowed back to in-person classroom instruction. 

These quarantine protocols only apply to students who remain unvaccinated. Asymptomatic vaccinated individuals are not required by MCPS to quarantine; this has been the case from the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. 

With these changes in guidelines and procedures, MCPS continues to promote its “Say Yes to the Test” campaign. This campaign focuses on encouraging the diverse community of students and their families to consent to COVID-19 rapid screening tests in over 140 schools and rising.

It can be highly anticipated this will not be the last change in MCPS’s COVID protocol, especially as local laws and mandates change. As of coming back from winter break, many schools in MCPS have already surpassed the 5% threshold of positive COVID cases, warranting reviews on whether to suspend in-person classes. Although the county made the announcement that for the time being schools will remain open despite these high numbers, much uncertainty is still in the air on what the rest of the year will look like and the measures schools will implement to best protect their students and staff.

To stay informed on the latest updates on student quarantine protocol, rapid testing, other COVID-19 school guidelines, and even shut downs, visit montgomeryschoolsmd.org which can also be accessed through the RHS website.