Staffing Shortages Push MCPS Summer Program Students Online

The staffing shortages that have plagued Montgomery County classrooms since buildings reopened to students in the fall have seeped into the summer, forcing students in a special education program to transition to a format virtual.

About 175 students enrolled in the Montgomery County Public Schools Extended School Year Program were notified this week that their program would not be held in person.

The Extended School Year Program is “an individualized extension of specific services beyond the regular school year that is designed to meet specific goals included in a student’s Individualized Education Plan,” according to the website. from MCPS. Students in special education programs have been among the most negatively impacted by school closures, according to MCPS data shared throughout the fall and spring.

Three affected individuals have shared a message with Bethesda Beat they received from the District explaining the change. In it, MCPS officials wrote that “due to significant teacher shortages, (MCPS) has been unable to hire special education teachers to serve” students, despite the offer of “incentive remuneration” to recruit teachers.

The letter said MCPS would instead provide summer services virtually and pay “a person you identify” $19 per hour for four hours each day to help the student with their work.

The families concerned were asked to identify the person before Tuesday, July 5.

MCPS spokesperson Chris Cram confirmed in an email to Bethesda Beat on Thursday that about 175 students were affected, but did not respond to further questions as of 1 p.m., including whether others summer programs have been affected by staffing shortages.

About 37,400 MCPS students — or 23% of total enrollment — were enrolled in summer school Wednesday, according to district data.

Since school buildings reopened full-time in the fall, MCPS has struggled with what county leaders have sometimes called a “critical” staffing shortage. The problems came to a head in January, after the winter break, when COVID-19 cases spiked and hundreds of new cases were reported daily in the school district.

As of mid-June, MCPS had nearly 600 vacancies in the district, many of which were teachers.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com