Health Office Delays Vote on In-Person Schooling

NORRISTOWN PA – If you’re among the large crowd of Montgomery County parents and others anxiously awaiting news on whether the county Office of Public Health will order all public and private school buildings to close for two weeks – and rely on virtual education only – because of rising coronavirus infections, you’ll need to be patient until noon today (Friday, Nov. 13, 2020) for an answer.

The agency was due to make its decision Thursday (Nov. 12), during a virtual meeting that included about 500 public participants. They loudly, clearly, and sometimes tearily pleaded with health officials to leave closing choices to school administrators and governing bodies. The vast majority of those who spoke argued the county should not meddle in what they contend is a local matter.

The public had given it a lot to consider, the health office acknowledged, and delayed its vote for roughly 24 hours. Today’s meeting will be broadcast live on the health office Facebook page, here.

Part of its concern in containing the fast-spreading virus, according to county Board of Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, lies with parents who continue to permit students to be involved in “private social gatherings.”

“I want to make clear that the goal of this proposed order is to increase the chances that in-person school will be able to continue. 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,” Arkoosh said in a statement released Thursday.

“The goal of this two-week return to 100% virtual education, which includes the Thanksgiving holiday and for most students equates to 8 days of virtual learning, is to help ensure that students, teachers and staff exposed to COVID-19 over the holiday have a week to learn that they have been exposed while still at home and out of the school environment,” the statement added. “The success of this effort will hinge on all involved saying no to private social gatherings.”

Several media outlets reported on Thursday’s meeting. Their stories include:

Photo by Arif Riyanto via Unsplash, used under license