MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. - Montgomery County health officials have voted to shift all schools to virtual learning for the weeks surrounding Thanksgiving in an effort to prevent potential holiday transmissions.
Under the order, all schools in Montgomery County, both public and private, would switch fully to virtual learning from Nov. 23 through Dec. 6. The order could potentially expand beyond Dec. 6, depending on conditions.
The order also requires the cancellation of school-sanctioned extra-curricular activities including sports games and practices. County officials believe sports and Halloween gatherings are partially to blame for the rise in new infections among students.
"It's difficult and certainly not easy, but I think that if we don't do this we will be in a significantly worse situation post-Thanksgiving holiday," Senior VP of Patient Services and the Chief Nursing Officer at Main Line Health Barbra Wadsworth said.
She said her COVID-19 patients at Main Line have risen from 33 to 106 over the last four weeks. Likewise, President and CEO of the Holy Redeemer Health System, Michael B. Laign, said COVID hospitalizations have increased from 3 to 26 in three weeks.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced in a press release Friday afternoon that "all schools in Montgomery County will shift to the all virtual model of instruction beginning Monday, November 23, 2020. All school related in-person activities and athletic events in Montgomery County will also be suspended during this period."
Schools will provide specific information to parents about this change and its impact at the local level in the coming week, the archdiocese said. Schools in nearby Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties will keep their current models of instruction, based on input from local health departments.
Recommendations to have Montgomery County K-12 students switch to virtual learning through the holiday came from Montgomery County Health Commissioner Dr. Valerie Arkoosh in conjunction with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab.
The PolicyLab has become the COVID-19 forecaster of sorts for 800 counties across three states. They help leaders make science-based decisions on their school reopening strategies.
Several parents made their voices heard, with some claiming the county hadn’t presented data to support the switch was necessary while others called the measures ‘draconian’ and ‘overreaching.’
“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,” Dr. Arkoosh said.
“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.”
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