MCPS/Blair/Local/State/Federal: Ongoing Updates, Efforts, Information & Services Re COVID-19


Below is information from Montgomery County Public Schools, Blair High School and local, state and federal resources (e.g., Montgomery County, State of Maryland, Centers for Disease Control, non-governmental organizations, newspapers and universities) regarding and pertaining to COVID-19. Updates and announcements will be posted as soon as possible.

LATEST UPDATE/INFORMATION POSTED: April 6, 2020 (MCPS message)

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1️⃣ COVID-19 News/Updates from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

  • Background re Maryland School Closings due to conronavirus pandemic: On March 12, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced that all Maryland schools must close in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Accordingly, MCPS schools were closed starting March 16, 2020 until March 27, 2020. On March 25, 2020, Dr. Salmon announced that Maryland Schools (which includes MCPS) will continue to be closed through Friday, April 24, 2020.

2️⃣ Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) information about COVID-19 and MCPS’ educational & scheduling efforts re the pandemic

  • April 6, 2020 – Important Information for Parents and Guardians Regarding Student Privacy and the Continuity of Learning: “Whether in-person or online, MCPS is committed to providing a safe and welcoming learning environment for students and staff. This week, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) launched phase one of its Continuity of Learning plan, which ensures students can continue to learn while school buildings are closed. As you know, the plan includes the use of web-based tools that allow students to learn and collaborate with their peers and teachers. While these new tools provide new opportunities to learn, we are mindful of the risks to student privacy.” CLICK ON THE ABOVE LINK TO READ THE ENTIRE MESSAGE.
  • April 3, 2020 – Nationwide Zoom Outage : “Due to a spike in usage nationwide, the web conferencing platform Zoom is currently experiencing an unexpected partial outage nationwide. This affects the ability to join “via web browser,” which is what most students and staff use when connecting with a Chromebook. When attempting to log in and join a Zoom Web Conference, an error message appears. The error states “403 Forbidden.”  To address this, MCPS has automatically pushed the Zoom app to all student accounts. This app will show up on students’ accounts automatically. It does not require the student to install anything if they are on their Chromebooks or if they are using the Chrome browser with their MCPS-supplied Google account. If students are using a personal device such as a PC, MacBook or an iPad, they may be prompted to install the Zoom app when attempting to connect to a meeting. After doing so, they will be allowed to join the Zoom web conference. “MCPS is updating support materials that will help parents, students and staff with any issues that may come up as they engage in online learning using our myMCPS and Google Classroom platforms. This information will be shared with the community in the coming days.” 
  • March 30, 2020 – Update on MCPS Meal Distribution Service: “Today, Monday, March 30, Governor Larry Hogan issued a Stay-at-Home Order to combat the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). While the order prohibits Maryland residents from making trips considered non-essential (see the Executive Order), it does allow community members to continue to travel to our schools to pick up meals and instructional resources for online learning. Meal service will continue as scheduled this week at multiple sites. Additionally, MCPS will continue to provide supports and services to address the social-emotional, psychological and physical well-being of our students and staffCLICK ON ABOVE LINK TO READ THE ENITRE MESSAGE
  • March 29, 2020 – Important Reminder for MCPS Families: “[Monday, March 30, 2020] we will launch the first phase of our remote learning plan while our school buildings are closed. During this first week, students and families will have the opportunity to: 1) Reconnect with their teachers; 2) Take online tutorials to learn how to use technology platforms like myMCPS Classroom and Google Classroom; 3) Develop a schedule that outlines when each student in the home will engage in their lessons; and 4) Begin completing the end of the third marking period assignments. Details about what to expect this first week, as well as the most up-to-date meal site information, is available at www.MontgomerySchoolsMD.org.”
  • March 27, 2020 – Continuity of Learning in MCPS: Getting Started: On Monday, March 30, we are launching the first phase of our online learning plan. While our school buildings remain closed until April 24, our staff has been working hard for weeks to develop continuity of learning (remote/distance learning) plans that address the academic and non-academic needs of our students. Rolling out a remote learning plan in a system as large as MCPS will take coordination, collaboration, training and practice. Staff and students are being asked to teach and learn in new and unfamiliar ways. We must be patient with each other and understand that the system won’t be perfect and we will need to adjust as we go.  During our first week of phase one (March 30-April 3) of remote learning, we will: 1) Reconnect students and teachers; 2) Ensure students can engage in online lessons and practice interacting with online tools and submitting assignments; 3) Ensure staff receive the professional development needed to deliver a quality remote learning experience for students; 4) Help families establish home schedules that outline when a student will be engaged in lessons and 5) Work on assignments to close out Marking Period 3. CLICK ON ABOVE LINK TO READ THE ENITRE MESSAGE RE MCPS’ REMOTE LEARNING SCHEDULE DETAILS AND TIMELINE.
  • March 27, 2020 – Important Update for Parents/Guardians of Students with Individualized Education Programs or Section 504 Plans: On March 22, 2020, Superintendent Jack Smith announced that beginning on March 30, 2020, MCPS will launch the first phase of a continuity of learning (distance/remote learning) system so that all students can begin to have structured school experiences. Monday, March 30 will be the first day our teachers and 10-month support staff members will be back at work. They are excited and eager to reconnect with their students. We know that families of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) have many questions. Throughout the last few weeks, the Office of Special Education, the Resolution and Compliance Unit, and the Office of the General Counsel have been collaborating with local and state education agencies to determine a thoughtful, measured approach to implement the continuity of learning. As the instructional environment shifts from in-person to online, students and teachers will need time to adjust. As a result, all IEP and Section 504 meetings that were postponed while schools were closed from March 16 to March 27, 2020, will be rescheduled. All IEP and Section 504 meetings scheduled for March 30 through April 3, 2020, are postponed and will be rescheduled. CLICK ON ABOVE LINK TO READ THE ENITRE MESSAGE.
  • March 25, 2020 – Changes to the School Calendar and Information on Phase One of Remote Learning in MCPS (message from MCPS Superintendent): “As we shared earlier today in our community message, Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon have extended the closure of all Maryland public schools through April 24, 2020. In addition to our school buildings being closed until April 24, all extracurricular programs, athletic programs and community use activities are canceled. The district will continue to provide free breakfast, lunch and dinner meals to all children at more than 40 sites throughout the county. Details on times and locations can be found on the MCPS Coronavirus webpage. This is an incredibly difficult time for our community and we want you to know that we also will continue to provide supports and services to address the social-emotional, psychological and physical well-being of our students. These resources can be found here.  As a reminder, MCPS will begin laptop (Chromebooks) distribution tomorrow, Thursday, March 26. Details are here. These laptops are reserved for students who do not have access to a computer or laptop at home. The distribution will take place outside of the school building (similar to our meal distribution sites). Families will not have an opportunity to enter the school building.  Below are some important updates regarding the 2019-2020 school year calendar and the first phase of our continuity of learning plan. Rolling out a remote learning plan in a district as large as MCPS will undoubtedly take a significant amount of training and coordination. We have some of the best teachers, support staff and administrators in the nation and they are up to the task. We are confident that instruction in our new model will be delivered successfully and effectively. Note: Click on the above title link to read the entire message and details.
  • March 25, 2020 – MCPS Schools Closed Through April 24: Laptop Distribution to Begin March 26 (message from MCPS Superintendent Jack R. Smith): ” Today, March 25, Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced that Maryland public schools will be closed until April 24, 2020.  While this news is not what we want or unexpected, it is the right thing to do as we are facing an unprecedented health crisis. We want you to know that even though our school buildings are closed, Montgomery County Public Schools will continue to support student learning as well as the physical, social-emotional and psychological needs of our students. It is important to know that this will not be the same experience students have in school buildings.  However, it will provide continuity of learning while our school buildings are closed.   We know that the announcement of an extended closure will generate many questions—from the student learning experience to the school calendar. This evening, and over the next several days, we will send messages to students, staff and parents to begin addressing many of these questions and concerns. Even though our buildings are closed, we will be proceeding with continuity of learning for our students. Part of that plan involves ensuring students with real need have access to Chromebook laptops  and the internet. MCPS will begin distributing laptops to students tomorrow, Thursday, March 26. Details about this distribution are below (click on the title link). We know that the state superintendent’s decision to extend this school closure is hard for our families. School is at the heart of our county and community.  However, this is the right decision to ensure everyone’s safety as we combat the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Please continue to stay safe and take care of one another.  We are all in this together.” Note: Click on the above title link to read the entire message and details about laptop distribution to MCPS students.
  • March 22, 2020 – MCPS Meal Distribution Service Expanded: MCPS is providing free breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for children 18 years old and younger, and all MCPS students (regardless of age) at more than 40 sites (including mobile locations) throughout the county. Additionally, MCPS school buses will distribute meals in several communities. MCPS is collaborating with Manna Food to distribute weekend backpack food sacks throughout the county. Distribution will take place on Fridays (locations TBD). Please visit https://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/coronavirus/#emergencymeals to see the most up-to-date list of meal sites.
  • MCPS ‘Coronavirus’ Webpage: Features up-to-date information from county, state and federal health officials (e.g. messages to the community, press releases, etc.), links to important resources in multiple languages, tips for how to speak with your children about the coronavirus, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). The FAQs provide additional information on important topics such as school field trips, plans for instruction and how parents can help.
  • COVID-19 Preparedness: Documents from March 3, 2020 presentation made to the Montgomery County Council by Dr. Travis Gayles, Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services and Dr. Earl Stoddard, Director, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security – both employed by the government of Montgomery County Maryland.

3️⃣ Messages from Montgomery Blair High School

4️⃣ Maryland State & Local COVID-19 Information

  • State & Local COVID-19 InfoMaryland Healthcare Enrollment Has Re-Opened – An emergency special enrollment is now open through April 15, 2020 for uninsured Marylanders. The online application is available daily from 6 am to 11 pm: https://www.marylandhealthconnection.gov
  • Montgomery County COVID-19 Testing Info – If you think you are ill and need medical care, you should seek medical attention. Call ahead before going so the provider can take precautions when you arrive. Testing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) change frequently. Please visit their site for updates on their guidance about who should be tested: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html. Your physician or health care provider will assess your symptoms and determine if diagnostic testing for the COVID-19 virus is appropriate. If your health care provider suspects COVID-19, THEY will coordinate testing with a commercial lab or the State’s public health laboratory. While some commercial labs have the ability to analyze and report results to the patient or provider who ordered testing, the labs currently only perform the analysis and DO NOT collect specimens directly from patients. If you would like to speak with a nurse please call 240-777-1755.   
  • Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Legislation – The Governor signed emergency legislation on March 19, 2020 that includes: 1) No Fees or Co-pays for COVID-19 Tests: Ensuring that Marylanders will not be charged fees or co-pays for COVID-19 tests; 2) No Price-Gouging: Prohibits price-gouging for food, fuel, medicine, cleaning products and other essential supplies; 3) Workers Cannot be Terminated: Guarantees that Marylanders cannot be terminated from their jobs because they have been isolated or quarantined; and 4) Unemployment Benefits: Will allow the Secretary of Labor to extend unemployment benefits to workers who cannot work because they are quarantined, at risk for exposure, or to care for a family member with COVID-19.

5️⃣ Coronavirus: ‘What you need to read’ (The Washington Post)

The Washington Post is providing some coronavirus coverage free, including:

6️⃣ Coronavirus Resource Center (Johns Hopkins University)

Johns Hopkins experts in global public health, infectious disease, and emergency preparedness have been at the forefront of the international response to COVID-19. This website is a resource to help advance the understanding of the virus, inform the public, and brief policymakers in order to guide a response, improve care, and save lives. Website includes daily global tracking of confirmed cases via an interactive map; information about the virus; advice re social distancing and how to stay safe and prevent the spread of the virus.

7️⃣ World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus Information

WHO’s coronavirus disease website includes information, research, reports and updates (regional and global) about the COVID-19 pandemic.

8️⃣ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 Information

The CDC’s coronavirus website includes information such as how to protect yourself; list of symptoms; preparing your family and resources and guidelines for communities, organizations and health professionals. Includes FAQs regarding coronavirus terminology, the source of the disease, how it spreads, etc.