Ashley Nguyen, Staff Writer

From a recent surge of COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant, virtual learning again became an option for many school communities, including MCPS. If MCPS considers a transition to virtual, although it may provide benefits, there are also many negative factors to consider as well. 

With a transition, students may lack effort, participate less, and have fewer interactions with classmates and teachers. Any return to virtual learning would be detrimental to student success.

The decision of going virtual or not is constantly debated throughout the community of students, staff, and parents. On Dec. 20, MCPS released in an announcement a “5% threshold,” where any school that reported 5% or more of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19, schools shifted towards virtual learning through considerations with the DHHS and the Maryland Department of Health. 

But soon enough on Jan. 7, MCPS followed up towards their threshold and stated in a press release that “The state of Maryland does not currently recommend any automatic trigger or threshold for the suspension of in-person learning.” Board officials confirmed in this press that MCPS will no longer use the 5% threshold or transition schools to virtual for that reason. 

Many families and students felt frustration and confusion over the announcement when first released due to the sudden change in plan, especially since the majority of schools were at the red edge of 5% or above. In response to these reactions and in order to decrease concerns, MCPS mentioned many medical professionals are working with them to participate and provide helpful information, and that primary health guidance is provided by the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

With the continuation of in-person learning, MCPS has also made it important to let the community know that regardless of removing the 5% threshold, schools throughout the county are continuing to be monitored individually and positive cases of COVID-19 are still being tracked by the Department of Health, and if any particular school needs to transition to virtual learning for a designated period, it would. 

Further precautions are also being taken to provide the best possible safety for students and staff. This includes distribution of KN-95 masks to each student, enhanced ventilation in the building, vaccination requirements for athletics, and increased access to testing through permission slips and instant tests. With these developments, MCPS is continuing to respond to safety concerns and acknowledge that a virtual transition is not yet necessary.