Monifa McKnight, the acting superintendent of schools, made the announcement before the Montgomery County Board on Tuesday morning. She did not say how many schools would switch to virtual learning on Thursday, or name the schools, but said more details would be announced later today.

Montgomery County Public Schools is expected to announce later Tuesday that more schools will temporarily transition to virtual learning for 10 days starting Thursday amid a continued spike in COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages.

Dr. Monifa McKnight, acting superintendent of schools, made the announcement before the Montgomery County Council, sitting as the Board of Health, Tuesday morning. She did not specify how many schools would switch to virtual learning or name the schools, but said more details would be announced later today.

She reiterated her commitment to keeping schools open for in-person instruction and said the school system would only make decisions about virtual learning on a school-by-school basis.

Some parents and teachers have complained of a rocky return to school after the winter break, which came amid a large spike in cases linked to the omicron variant across the county and state. .

“Like any educator across America, I will tell you that the challenges presented by COVID-19 are unlike anything our school system has ever experienced – and I would venture to say that any school system has experienced in modern history,” McKnight said. “We are all beginners in this field.”

The change comes after Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) last week introduced a new approach to determining how and when schools should transition to virtual learning that considers five factors, including staff absences and pupils, unfilled substitute teaching posts, unserved bus lines. and COVID-19 case rates.

McKnight said she is committed to keeping children in school as long as it is safe to do so.

Teaching is a “face-to-face enterprise; honestly, there’s no replacement for that,” McKnight said. “And when we have to replace it with a virtual format, we have to be very mindful of the implications of that and the best way to do that, and what makes us say it’s needed right now.”

Small teams of MCPS administrators, along with school-level officials, staff representatives, and parent leaders, will review the data and determine whether specific schools should consider moving to virtual learning, a said McKnight.

“Sometimes the story can’t be told just by looking at the numbers,” McKnight said, adding that factors like staffing challenges can also flag a school for possible virtual learning.

“Personalizing that decision is going to be key,” McKnight said.

Earlier this month, MCPS implemented a color-coded system to track COVID-19 infection rates in schools, which officials have used to determine whether schools should transition to virtual learning. Initially, 11 schools recorded infection rates of 5% or more among staff and students in the past 14 days, triggering a shift to virtual learning.

However, MCPS later abandoned this approach after the Maryland Department of Health recommended against using a single metric as a threshold for going virtual.

During his appearance before the board on Tuesday, McKnight also made two specific demands. She asked that the county’s Department of Health and Human Services take full responsibility for contact tracing in schools and that the county commit to providing 190,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits to every school every year. both weeks – a number that would cover all students and staff, including substitute teachers.

McKnight said school administrators and staff shouldered the burden of contact tracing throughout the year. “And we heard repeatedly that it took away from their focus on instruction,” she said. “We have to go back to school.”