MCPS will begin reopening in phases


infographic by Daniela Abrams

MCPS will begin reopening on April 6 in three phases.

Sam Sharp , Reporter

All Montgomery County Public Schools high schools will reopen on April 6, more than 16 weeks after CESJDS reopened the Upper School. Given the obstacles JDS faced, public schools face even larger obstacles, as they have a larger student population with such little time to return in person due to the Governers request.

According to Math Department Head at Sligo Creek Middle School Joan Shane, each school is different when it comes to the reopening process. 

“The reopen itself is a challenge because the county has decided that every school does what’s in the best interests of their students. Just because something is happening at my school, doesn’t mean the same thing is going to happen at another, even though we’re in the same county,” Shane said.

MCPS has decided to phase students back in person by grade starting with the youngest. About every two weeks starting on March 15, a new set of grades will go back to school. Every grade (not including kindergarten through third grade) will go in person four days every other week. MCPS high school students have the least amount of time in school. The last grade to go back, tenth grade, returns April 26, only seven weeks away from summer. 

Theisen Healey, a Social Studies teacher at Walter Johnson High School, has had a mixed response to MCPS’s reopening plan. 

“I’m looking forward to going back. The county has made a lot of changes. That’s been frustrating and it’s been a criticism I have. At the same time, I can imagine how difficult it is for the people figuring this out,” Healey said.

Healey has had difficulty in following the changing policies of MCPS’s plan to reopen. Many schools send out individual emails several times a week, updating students and families about the situation. 

“I’ve seen a lot of the steps along the way and it’s given me a perspective that gives me more comfort in the plan compared to others,” Healey said. 

As a busy freshman at Walter Johnson High School, Ava Redmond agrees on how hard it is to keep up with the reopening updates.

 “They [MCPS officials] change their minds a lot, but they seem very organized in the communication category,” Redmond said. “All the emails are very informational and necessary to read.” 

Another key factor that teachers and students have taken into consideration for reopening is school safety. Many schools are well prepared with a good amount of materials needed, like extra masks and hand sanitizer. Schools have also set up lines on the ground of hallways to have students maintain social distancing while walking to class. 

JDS freshman Yaeli Greenblum has a sister in public middle school who is going back in person. 

“I’m a little scared because if I get [Covid 19] from my sister and come to JDS with a positive test, then the whole school is exposed,” Greenblum said. 

Part of the reason why MCPS has had such little time to reopen schools is due to Governor Larry Hogan’s January 21st announcement that schools should start hybrid learning. Although he doesn’t have the power to force this to happen, Hogan’s request pressured MCPS to reopen by March. With more resources, time and a smaller student population, according to Greenblum, JDS had the luxury to take the hybrid process more slowly and carefully.  

Despite all the challenges of going back to school, both students and teachers are excited to finally go back to some normalcy. 

“I think it’s [in person school] worth trying,” Healey said. “Maybe this is a good trial run if by next year we are still doing some type of modified return to school.”