Montgomery County Public Schools officials discuss reopening instructional plan, no changes in learning phase or level

Published: Dec. 8, 2020 at 11:58 PM EST
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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) -The discussion continued Tuesday night for Montgomery County Public Schools on whether to adjust its current instructional plan during the pandemic. Ultimately, the district decided to keep the learning phase and level as is after receiving feedback from the community.

Currently, students are either fully virtual or go to school four days a week for half a day in person, with Wednesday reserved for virtual learning. Last week, the school board considered increasing the number of students in the classroom, especially after learning more of them are getting D’s and F’s this semester.

“Why is this an option being considered at all?” asked student Meghan McElroy.

Emotions rang high at Tuesday’s special school board meeting from students, parents and teachers, filling the room for the first time in months, questioning why the board wants to make a change in the current plan.

“The distance and the masks are key, that’s what’s keeping our kids safe,” said district parent Linwood Hudson at the podium.

Hudson has a middle schooler who takes half a day of school in person, and a high schooler who has chosen to be completely virtual.

“My oldest daughter really has concerns about the virus and exposure to it from her peers. I think she sees kids being not as safe as she would like them to be,” Hudson said.

It’s a thought echoed by others during the meeting.

“Keep things as they are, keep us safe,” said Kipps Elementary teacher Matthew Fentress. “For years we have come to you about our livelihood, today we come to you about our lives.”

After survey results were released from the reopening feedback process, board members visited schools last week to figure out what the future of learning should look like, especially with lower academic performance. Results show that students in the district are earning more D’s and F’s than they were this time last year. D’s are up 19% for students grades six through 12 and F’s are up 151%. D’s are up 80% for students grades three through five and U’s are up 370%.

“I think that the whole idea is let’s get them in the school and that will fix everything,” said Board Member Sue Kass. “I’m not convinced and I think if you really want to know the best thing to do for those students is, you are asking the wrong people.”

“We’re so focused on trying to get back to this sense of normal that we had before March of 2020 that we’re not taking a second to step back and wonder if that model had ever worked,” said student Molly McPherson.

Hudson said he is hoping for more communication and transparency moving forward.

“If they can make a decision together that would be nice,” he said.

Ultimately, the board did not vote to increase classroom capacity. It will reexamine the issue in February.

The board did vote so students who are earning D’s and F’s can get permission to attend school in person full-time with a note from a parent.

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