Feb 5 – Alarmed that MCPS is attempting to defy Governor Larry Hogan’s orders to reopen for live, in-person teacher instruction by March 1, Together Again MCPS, an organization representing thousands of Montgomery County parents, today urged Governor Hogan and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon to intervene on behalf of their children.

“We were shocked and appalled that at the January 28 MCPS BOE meeting, Superintendent Jack Smith repeatedly referenced March 15, not March 1, as the return date, and he highlighted a supposed return model that is essentially an extension of Zoom school,” wrote the parents in their letter sent today. “Staring at a Chromebook while your teacher teaches on a screen is not in-person instruction, and it is frankly unacceptable.”

In the Indirect Support Model, discussed at the January 28 BOE meeting as one of three models under consideration by MCPS, students return to school to learn on Chromebooks, not via live teacher instruction. MCPS parents have since learned from principals and educators that this Indirect Support Model is preferred by MCPS senior staff and its teachers’ union because it is less burdensome. On social media teachers are claiming that teaching students face-to-face in classrooms while simultaneously teaching remote students is “too challenging,” “workloads will triple,” and they hope “the impact bargaining team will keep it from happening.” Most school systems across the country, however, have adopted a simultaneous teaching model successfully.

“While it is not clear when MCPS thinking moved from a genuine in-person teaching model to the Indirect Support Model, it is obvious that union pushback on returning in-person must be responsible. Making matters even worse, MCPS teachers, with no commitment to return in-person, are currently being prioritized for immunization appointments over essential workers with public-facing jobs and the elderly. This is shameful public policy.”

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is required to wait for the submission of a final in-person plan by MCPS before considering any possible action. However, MCPS announced at its January 28 meeting that it might not finalize its in-person plan until February 23. By waiting until this late date, MCPS will leave MSDE and the Maryland State Board of Education with very little time to review and address any issues prior to March 1. Together Again MCPS, therefore, asked Hogan and Salmon to update its Maryland School Re-Opening Guidance as soon as possible to include a clear definition of “in-person,” “in-person learning” and “in-person instruction” so it is consistent with their January 21 directive.

“We are outraged that MCPS insists on delaying reopening and is favoring an Indirect Support Model in schools,” concluded the parents. “It is clear that MCPS does not want to embrace a true return to schools and they are making this as unattractive to parents as possible. Therefore, we respectfully request that you both do everything in your authority to ensure our students receive live in-person instruction beginning March 1.”

On January 21, Governor Hogan and Dr. Salmon announced that there is no longer a public health reason to keep schools closed. They eliminated community metrics as a requirement for reopening, and they called on all Maryland school districts to reopen by March 1 for in-person instruction with teachers.

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