November 15, 2020
Starting on Monday, Nov. 23, all Montgomery County public and private K-12 schools will be required to hold all-remote instruction for two weeks in order to prevent an uptick in coronavirus infections around the Thanksgiving holiday.
The county’s board of health voted on the measure on Friday, meaning that in-person learning will not resume in schools until at least Monday, Dec. 6.
Montgomery County’s mandate also applies to special education students, and it states that all sports and extracurricular activities be suspended during the two-week period too.
The decision to halt in-person instruction around the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday comes as over 100 staff members in Montgomery County schools have been impacted by COVID-19.
“We want residents to know that we did not take this decision lightly,” said Michael Laign, who serves as the chair of Montgomery County’s board of health. “However, after examining the public health data and tracking the rise in COVID-19 case counts following Halloween, we believe this decision is in the best interest of K-12 students, teachers and staff in our schools, and our communities.”
Montgomery County’s decision to revert to online-only learning comes just days after the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia issued a strong recommendation for all Philly-area schools to pivot to all-remote instruction for two weeks, as early as this Monday, amid the surge in COVID-19 cases across the region.
“I want to make clear that I want in-person school to continue, and based on our data in Montgomery County, our team believes this brief pause in in-person schooling will support this goal,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, who serves as the chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
“By reducing the number of individuals who come to school with the coronavirus we maximize the chances that the excellent work that schools have been doing to limit in school transmission will continue to be successful.”
Pennsylvania health and education officials have advised counties experiencing substantial community spread of COVID-19 to shift solely to all-remote instruction. The state deems counties as having substantial risk if they have a test positivity rate of at least 10% or an incidence rate of at least 100 cases per 100,000 residents.
Montgomery County is one of 60 counties across Pennsylvania that is currently experiencing substantial community spread of COVID-19, according to state data. Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, and Delaware counties all qualify as well.
Montgomery County has an incidence rate of 181.4 as of Sunday. Only seven counties across the commonwealth are not experiencing significant community spread of COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the School District of Philadelphia postponed indefinitely its plans to revive in-person instruction for some students initially slated to return later this month.
The state’s largest teachers union, the Pennsylvania State Education Association, has urged more school districts to adhere to the state’s public health guidelines and pivot to all-virtual learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Pennsylvania recorded 5,551 new coronavirus infections on Saturday, increasing the statewide total to 259,938 since the pandemic began in March.
The statewide death toll due to COVID-19 stands at 9,274.