Teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School tests positive for COVID-19

Teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School tests positive for COVID-19

All students will participate in distance learning for 14 days

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Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Bethesda has moved to virtual instruction only for all students for 14 days and students in grades 6-8 are required to quarantine for the same period, after a teacher tested positive for COVID-19. according to a letter sent from the school to families on Friday.

The school, which serves students from pre-school through 8th grade, made the decision after consulting with the Archdiocese of Washington Catholic Schools and the Montgomery County Health Department, according to a letter Principal Amy Moore sent to families on Friday.

The school, on Pearl Street in Bethesda, expects to have students back in classrooms on Oct. 8.

Moore wrote that the school has followed health guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting facilities, as well as for social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing hands frequently.

“It is important to follow all guidelines provided at this time, including staying at home, continuing preventive measures, and practicing social distancing,” Moore wrote.

Spokespeople at OLOL and the archdiocese could not be reached Saturday.

On Sept. 11, Dr. Travis Gayles, the county’s health officer, told local private school leaders that they “should expect to see cases” of COVID-19 among staff members and students, if students participate in in-person classes.

At the time, 12 private schools had reported positive cases and six schools had to quarantine students or staff members because of potential exposures to the coronavirus. Gayles did not reveal the names of the schools.

In another meeting with private school leaders on Sept. 18, he said some “parents refused to cooperate with the contact tracing and quarantining process.” Gayles said he is prepared to take further action if there are continued issues.

“If folks are not compliant with those rules and designations, there is a concern we would have to take further action in terms of utilizing quarantine and isolation orders,” he said.

On July 31, Gayles issued a directive ordering private schools to remain closed for in-school instruction until at least Oct. 1.

But on Aug. 3, Gov. Larry Hogan issued his own order overturning the county’s stance and prohibiting local health officers from deciding whether the schools should reopen. He gave private schools the ability to decide for themselves.

Gayles issued another order on Aug. 5, citing a different Maryland law that allows county health officers to “act properly” to avoid the spread of a disease that endangers public health.

But he was overruled again when Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall sent a memo to local health officers on Aug. 6, stating that the state’s policy is that private schools in Maryland shouldn’t be closed in a “blanket manner” for the academic year.

Neall directed officers to instead use their authority to evaluate the circumstances and proposed COVID-19 response plans for individual schools.

Gayles rescinded his order to keep private schools from reopening for in-person classes on Aug. 7. He then issued a new health directive and order that advised nonpublic schools to not reopen for in-person instruction for the fall semester.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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