Local Education

What you need to know about Montgomery public schools this year

Washington Post reporters answer questions to help parents and guardians navigate the pandemic school year.

What kind of learning are schools offering: in-person, fully remote or hybrid?

Learning is all-virtual through the end of first semester, Jan. 29, 2021. Here is the recovery plan.

Are there plans for in-person learning, possibly with a hybrid approach, in the future?

The hope for the school year’s second semester, which begins Feb. 1, is to offer a hybrid approach that would bring students on campus in phases. The decision depends on health guidance. In early November, options for second semester will be evaluated.

What have the schools done to provide devices to students?

The school system has distributed 160,000 loaner Chromebook laptops to students in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 since the pandemic hit and intends to distribute more, with a goal of a device for every student as the school year begins.

How strong an Internet connection is needed to take part in remote learning and where can families get such a connection if they don’t have it currently?

A 10 Mbps download speed should be enough to enable classroom teleconferencing. Families that lack Internet due to cost or neighborhood connectivity can get wireless hotspots from the school system.

How do parents or students get support if they have technology issues?

Families who need technical assistance in accessing virtual instruction can call 240-740-7020 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. or email: communitytechsupport@mcpsmd.org.

A guide to frequently asked questions is also available.

What is the length of the remote school day?

The day runs from 8:45 am to 3:15 pm for elementary-level students, including breaks and lunch, and from 8:45 am to 3:30 pm for middle- and high-school students. Plans include teacher-led activities, independent work and social-emotional learning.

Are exceptions to all-virtual learning being made for students in special education or for other student groups, so that they may come to campus in small groups?

The school system is exploring plans to bring in small groups of special education students and English language learners for in-person support in coming months.

Will teachers be teaching from home or from their classrooms?

From home.

How much real-time instruction is there?

According to school system and state data, total live instruction will be 18 hours a week for grades 6 to 12, and 21.4 hours a week for pre-K to fifth grade.

How is attendance being tracked?

Students are expected to attend all of their classes and will be marked present in one of three ways: attending a live Zoom session, completing an attendance check-in during a live or recorded class or engaging in an online discussion thread during a live or recorded class.

Is grading different than in a typical year?

Grading will be more standardized and traditional for the fall semester, with some adjustments likely.

How are art, music and PE taught to elementary school children?

They are taught virtually, with weekly sessions for each course that run from 20 to 45 minutes.

How long are high school sports postponed?

Traditional athletics are suspended for first semester, but school officials are offering a virtual sports program that includes webinars and other remote activities. After a decision is made about instruction for the second semester, a decision about second-semester sports will follow.

If students qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, how will they get those lunches?

Breakfasts and lunches will be offered curbside from 74 school sites for students enrolled in the school system. Hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with no meal service on Thursdays.

Do the schools offer any child-care options for working parents or school employees?

Seventeen private child-care providers that have long operated in county schools are offering all-day “distance learning hubs” for children ages 5 to 12. One provider is charging $300 a week, while the cost for another is$1,275 a month. Vouchers are accepted.

My child needs to see a school mental health specialist or counselor. How will those visits take place?

Meetings are held virtually.

Has the school system curriculum changed as a result of the pandemic? Is the material being covered exactly the same as other years?

The school system is continuing its rollout of new curriculum in English and math.

Will standardized tests take place?

Diagnostic assessments called MAP tests (Measures for Academic Progress) will be given from the second week of September to October. Updates on other assessments will come as the year progresses.

Illustrations by iStockphoto.

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