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Montgomery County prohibits private schools from starting school year in-person

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said all nonpublic schools in Montgomery County must remain closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1.

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. — Montgomery County health officials said Friday that all nonpublic schools must remain closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1, 2020. Montgomery County Public Schools had previously announced that they would offer virtual learning through Jan. 29, 2021. 

RELATED: Montgomery County Public Schools will have all-virtual curriculum until at least January 2021

Officials said that "nonpublic schools" are defined as any school in Montgomery County not affiliated with MCPS, including private schools, religious schools and independent schools. 

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have based our decisions on science and data,” County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles said. “At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers." 

As of July 31, Maryland has more than 88,000 cases of COVID-19 and 8,377 people under the age of 20 have tested positive for the virus. In Montgomery County specifically, there are 17,568 cases of COVID-19, and 750 people have died of the virus. 

"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," Gayles said.

RELATED: Masks required in public spaces, some outdoor areas in Maryland starting Friday at 5 p.m.

Officials said anyone who violates this order is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces up to one year in prison, a $5,000 fine or both. 

MCPS also canceled all and winter sports for student-athletes in the district. 

"No one has ever done this before," MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith said. "There are no good options."

MCPS officials said they have learned a lot about digital learning since the pandemic forced schools to close suddenly,  stating that the online learning in the fall will not look like previous online learning, which was "a response to an emergency situation." 

County and state officials will reassess when in-person learning can begin for private and public schools later this fall.

RELATED: Virtual-only semester brings added challenges for parents of special education students

RELATED: MCPS student writes petition to change grading system for fall virtual semester

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