Montgomery County Private Schools Free to Open

Montgomery County Private Schools Free to Open

Decisions and models vary from school to school.

After almost two weeks of policy twists and turns, private schools in Montgomery County can open the 2020-2021 School year either virtually or with in-person classes.

Montgomery County Public Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles twice directed that private schools in the county only open with virtual classes until at least October, but was challenged by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

After the first of Gayles’ announcements, Hogan overturned Gayles’ authority calling Gayles’ order “overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer.”

A second attempt by Gayles also met with controversy this time including protest demonstrations by parents and a lawsuit against the County.

On August 7 Montgomery County issued the following statement:

“County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today announced that he has rescinded his health order that prohibited nonpublic schools from opening for in-person instruction until after Oct. 1, 2020. The decision was made due to the new policy announced yesterday by the State Department of Health prohibiting the blanket closure of nonpublic schools.

…“The Health Officer continues to strongly advise schools against in-person learning due to the risks posed by COVID-19 and has asked that the Department of Health provide articulable criteria to be used in determining acceptable and safe levels of activity in schools.”

Montgomery County Public Schools recently announced they would open virtually with no in-person classes, as will all other public school systems in the region.

Some local private schools had been making plans to open with in-person classes, making accommodations such as reduced class sizes, more space for social distancing, and requiring masks for all. But others will choose to begin with distance learning only or a hybrid.

Landon will open with distance learning on Wednesday, August 26. This plan will be for all academic classes. The school will combine distance learning with gradually phased in, on-campus, smaller group activities (such as athletics training, and other outdoor small group gatherings), according to its website Landon will remain in this modified distance learning scenario through at least Friday, September 25.

St. Bartholomew Catholic School on River Road said, “Your child's safety and wellbeing is at the forefront of our decision making as we prepare our campus for a full re-opening in August. …To comply with social distancing we have made the difficult decision to reduce class sizes.”

In an Aug. 6 letter from Robert Kosasky, Head of School at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, he acknowledged the responsibility of caring for everyone in the school community.

“We have the duty and determination to care for everyone in our school: each St. Andrew’s student and family, and every teacher and staff member who has dedicated their life to our school. Our community members come to campus from across the Greater Washington region, and we each return home to our families and loved ones every evening. In this time more than ever, we must care for the health and well-being of every Lion. We belong, and must be responsible, to each other. For these reasons, our Board of Trustees and I have decided that St. Andrew’s will begin the year in our distance learning model for Kindergarten-Grade 12 through at least October 9.”

St. Andrew’s preschool will open in person on Sept. 8. “We currently plan to begin our preschool program, which is significantly smaller in numbers and has dramatically different needs from our older students, on campus, primarily outdoors, in a half-day model.”

The Catholic Schools Office said, “Many of our school enrollments are similar in size to approved and currently operational childcare centers in Montgomery County. The Archdiocese of Washington currently has three such early learning centers operational under approved childcare licenses.

Taking into account enrollments, facility size and parent feedback, schools across the Archdiocese of Washington have organized local reopening task force teams and prepared local reopening plans. …The majority of schools across the Archdiocese have planned a hybrid model, implementing both in-person and distance learning.”