MCPS officials discuss special education reopening

November 12, 2020


Graphic Courtesy of Evelyn Shue

On Sept. 24, Governor Larry Hogan and MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala announced that all 24 Maryland jurisdictions had approved of the plan to bring small groups of students with specific needs back to school.

On Sept. 24, Governor Larry Hogan and MCPS Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala announced that all 24 Maryland jurisdictions had approved of the plan to bring small groups of students with specific needs back to school.

The starting date of this program is undetermined, though it will not be happening anytime soon. “This is in no way a signal that we’re going to do this immediately, or next week, or in the next three weeks or four weeks or five weeks. We don’t know when that is,” MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) plans to open three special education centers, one in the upcounty region, one mid county and one downcounty. This is to ensure that all students have a location nearby. Kevin Lowndes, Associate Superintendent for Special Education, stated that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, in-person formal achievement and psychological assessments are still necessary regardless of circumstances. Due to this, MCPS will be calling families to ask how they feel on this matter and whether they would be comfortable with bringing their child in to be assessed.

“In-person preparations are a good thing, as long as it was confirmed that it would not create a spike in COVID 19 cases,” freshman Lakshmi Sangireddi, whose brother attends a special education program at Seneca Valley High School, said.

“My brother is really lonely at home,” Sangireddi said. “He really misses his friends. In fact, the other day, when he logged into online school, I could hear him excitedly yelling hello to his friends all the way in the basement.” While Sangireddi wanted her brother to meet his friends, she reiterated that the correct precautions must be taken and the reopening must be doctor approved.

In an interview with medical researcher Dr. Faruk Sheikh from the FDA, he stated that he also believed that the reopening of special education programs would allow for more effective learning, though it must be done under strict safety and sanitary guidelines. “I think that reopening schools for kids who need special education is important as remote learning is not very effective, but it cannot be done unless strict safety measures like regular cleaning, using hand sanitizers, socially distancing, and masks are used,” Dr.Sheikh said. “If all of those measures are met there shouldn’t be a problem. But I do think it will affect the community significantly if these measures are not followed strictly – cases will go up a lot quicker without safety protocols.” He also expressed his concerns on the expected rise of cases during the winter.

Although there are many differing perspectives on this topic, the one thing people seem to be able to agree on is enforcing proper precautions to be set in place. MCPS has taken this into account and has ensured all special education teachers will take a training course to make sure everyone is safe when the schools will open.


1 Comment

One Response to “MCPS officials discuss special education reopening”

  1. Pete Trimmer on November 12th, 2020 9:31 pm

    Everyone in your article wants schools to stay closed until there is a safe, effective and widespread vaccine inoculation, except MCPS. Please point this out. MCPS needs to make online learning more effective and equitable. Learning without killing people. Yes it may be more difficult to learn online and place more burdens and open up more inequities, but the alternative is death. A temporary hiatus for school vs a permanent exit from reality. Why is the trade-off even being discussed? Does MCPS not know the meaning of ASYMPTOMATIC SPREAD? It means that even with quick, accurate and frequent testing, contact tracing and all the PPE and Hazmat suits, the virus can still spread. MCPS seems to think that some professional development classes can get teachers to the point of having covid spread prevention expertise and practice equal to where health care workers are and, by the way, health care workers are dying. 1700 as of Sept 28, 2020.

    No one needs to be sacrificed for learning to continue. Work on the supports, curriculum, infrastructure and teacher training to improve online. Do not waste time planning on a program with ancillary deaths when it is not necessary.

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