Private schools have been ordered not offer in-person instruction until Oct. 1

Updated: County orders private schools not to offer in-person instruction through Oct. 1

Directive and whether it should be extended will be reevaluated in fall; many schools had planned to reopen

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This story was updated at 10 p.m. July 31, 2020, to add details about many private schools’ tentative plans for the fall, before Dr. Travis Gayles issued his order on Friday and to clarify that the order takes effect on Aug. 3. It was also updated at 9:56 a.m. on Aug. 3, 2020, to include comments from Potomac Glen Day School.

Private schools will not be able to open their doors for the coming school semester, Montgomery County’s health officer said Friday.

Dr. Travis Gayles, the county health officer, has ordered that private schools not offer in-person instruction through Oct. 1.

Gayles will reevaluate the order before Oct. 1 to determine whether it will be extended, terminated or amended. It goes into effect at 6 a.m. Aug. 3.

“At this point, the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers,” Gayles said in a county news release that went out Friday night. “We have seen increases in transmission rates for COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents.”

The private schools that will not be able to open include private pay schools, schools affiliated with religious institutions and independent schools.

As area private schools worked on their fall plans, many were expecting to include at least some degree of in-person instruction.

Among the tentative fall plans shared in the last several days with Bethesda Beat (before Gayles issued his order on Friday), subject to change:
• Bullis School in Potomac: Classes on campus five days a week for lower and middle school students. Upper school students will be in-person four days, home on Wednesdays for virtual learning. Option of remote learning and livestream classes offered for students unable to attend in-person.
• Connelly School of the Holy Child, Potomac: Dividing the student body alphabetically. Half will come to the building for two weeks of in-person instruction, then work from home remotely for two weeks, rotating between the two groups.
• Geneva Day School, Potomac: Open, but with reduced-size classes and revised procedures
• Georgetown Hill Early School, several campuses, including Potomac and Montgomery Village (Bethesda location closed for renovations): Open, with reduced class size and safety protocol
• Georgetown Preparatory School, North Bethesda: In-person instruction, with option of remote learning
• Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C.: Students will have the option of attending school in person one of every three days or virtual-only learning. The school will rotate one-third of students (about 320) on campus at a time for instruction, while two-thirds participate remotely via live stream.
• McLean School, Potomac: On campus for K-5 students daily. Students in grades 6-12 will be divided and come to the building on Monday and Wednesday or on Tuesday and Thursday, with alternating Fridays, with remote learning when they are not in school. Full-time virtual instruction is an option.
• Oneness Family/Montessori School, Chevy Chase: Opening in person with safety protocols. Cameras in classrooms will provide livestreaming for students who want to join from home. Looking to have have as much outdoor classroom time as possible and extended recess.
• Sandy Spring Friends School, Sandy Spring: All academic and co-curricular programming for grades K-12 will be online for the first semester. It will also provide scheduled opportunities for in-person, socially distanced “meet-ups” for small groups of students on campus every three weeks on a rotating basis. There will be limited in-person preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds.
• The Siena School, Silver Spring: All online for first semester
• Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, Bethesda: Starting virtually and remaining virtual with limited in person on-campus activities through early October.
• Washington Episcopal School, Bethesda: A gradual approach to reopening starting with early childhood students on campus on a modified schedule. Elementary and middle school students will begin with a hybrid model rotating on and off campus. The goal is to bring all students back to campus full-time, with the option of full-time remote learning.

Many other private schools in the area said this week they were still figuring out their fall plans and expected to make decisions by the first, second or third week of August, depending on the school.

The secretary of communications for the Archdiocese of Washington — which has Catholic schools in Montgomery County — could not be reached for comment on Friday evening by phone, text message or email.

Angela Tranquill, owner of Potomac Glen Day School, said in an email to Bethesda Beat on Saturday morning that the school also had plans to open on Sept. 3 with smaller class sizes and new policies.

Tranquill said that Gayles told private schools in a virtual meeting on Wednesday that he did not support nor recommend in-person learning for private schools.

“The purpose of the meeting was to provide information and resources for the reopening of private schools and to discuss a variety of measures that must be considered in order to continue the reopening process in the safest and appropriate manner while protecting public health,” she said. “It is beyond disappointing that the recommendation became a directive.”

Tranquill said she hopes there will be reconsideration of the directive based on CDC guidance.

Montgomery County Public Schools announced on July 21 that it would only offer virtual instruction for the fall semester. The announcement was a reversal of the school system’s earlier plan to gradually phase students into part-time, in-person instruction.

According to the county news release on Friday, out of more than 88,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state, 8,377 were in people age 19 or younger.

As of Friday morning, the Maryland Department of Health reported that there have been 17,568 confirmed cases and 750 confirmed deaths from the virus in Montgomery County.

Managing Editor Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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

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