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Montgomery Co. Schools will go digital if coronavirus outbreak comes to Maryland

The school system's digital portal and cable TV channel are to be leveraged to keep the learning going if schools are forced to close, the superintendent says.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — With coronavirus cases spreading across the country, Montgomery County Public Schools is preparing to provide instructional activities for all students online in the event that schools must closed.

The news of the preparation came in an MCPS letter that was sent out to parents and guardians Wednesday. 

"MCPS has a plan in place to address continuity of operations and student learning should there be an outbreak in the state and in the county," the letter said. "The district also is meeting with all principals this week to review emergency preparedness procedures," said the district in its statement. "We continue to hear from members of the community seeking additional information about the steps we are taking to prevent the spread of the virus in schools and to provide instruction to students in the event of school closures. The following information highlights aspects of the district’s plan for school, facilities, and instruction."

As part of the plan, MCPS said it will provide students instructional activities online through Google for Education software. This would require students to access the MCPS website, which would provide educational videos for various grades.

"We continue to hear from members of the community seeking additional information about the steps we are taking to prevent the spread of the virus in schools and to provide instruction to students in the event of school closures," added MCPS.

The decision to close school facilities will be made by Dr. Travis Gayles, a medical doctor and the Montgomery County chief health officer who reports to the Maryland Department of Health.

Gayles said that because the virus is a moving target, and outbreaks are situational, he cannot say exactly what factors will force school closures.

"There are not hard and fast criteria," Gayles said. "It will be totally dependent on the reality that we face."

According to a letter to parents from school officials, disinfecting efforts are being stepped up to prevent an outbreak.

According to the statement:

  • MCPS building service personnel have increased their focus on thoroughly disinfecting communal surfaces.
  • Officials continue to make hand sanitizers widely available in all facilities and continue to emphasize the importance of regular and thorough handwashing by ensuring that all buildings are appropriately stocked with soap.
  • The district continues to share best practices for overall health in the cold and influenza season with students, parents, and staff. These preventive measures include:
    1. Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
    2. Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands.
    3. Avoid close contact with individuals who are sick.
    4. Stay home when you are sick.
    5. The CDC recommends that individuals remain home for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medication (i.e., chills, feeling warm, flushed appearance).
    6. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately discard the tissue in the trash.
    7. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    8. Take any anti-viral medication prescribed to you as instructed.

To see more on how Montgomery County Public Schools is working to protect and educate its students during the threat of coronavirus, click here. 

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