NORRISTOWN, PA - The Montgomery County Board of Health
voted today to require all Montgomery County public and private K-12 schools to move to virtual or remote learning between November 23 and December 6.
The decision comes on the advice of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Policy Lab, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health (OPH), and Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair, Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. The order also applies to special education students and includes the suspension of extracurricular activities and sports during the two weeks.
“The Board of Health heard numerous comments during its meeting yesterday and has reviewed dozens of emails from residents on this matter,” said Michael B. Laign, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Health. “We want residents to know that we did not take this decision lightly. 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 officials reiterated they are extremely concerned about a number of outbreaks among students and student athletes related to Halloween gatherings and youth sports, and expect cases to rise again following the Thanksgiving holiday. In addition, officials are hearing consistently from school superintendents that staff shortages -- currently over 100 staff are impacted by COVID-19 -- are putting them in danger of functionally closing.
Health officials at OPH and CHOP have determined that the move to virtual instruction is prudent given the current surge in community case counts, which can impact schools and school operations, in addition to an increase in hospitalizations in Montgomery County. The order seeks to prioritize the health and safety of the students, staff, and community.
The OPH is taking a proactive approach in anticipation that families may be traveling and gathering over the Thanksgiving holiday, increasing the potential for COVID-19 exposures. The goal is to give schools the best chance of returning to in-person instruction after the holiday.
“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 A. Arkoosh, Chair, 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.”
A link to the order can be found here
.Under the Commonwealth’s Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, also referred to as Act 315, a County Board of Health is “primarily responsible for the prevention and control of communicable and non-communicable disease, including disease control in public and private schools…”
Montgomery County School Reopening Guidance can be found here
More information about individual Montgomery County school districts’ mitigation efforts can be found here