ROCKVILLE, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - Private schools in Montgomery County will stay closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1, the county's top health official says.
Dr. Travis Gayles says the decision is based on rising coronavirus case counts throughout Maryland and the greater D.C. region.
COVID-19 has killed 750 people in Montgomery County since the pandemic began in March.
“At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers," Dr. Gayles said in a statement. "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 decision also delivers a broadside to local parents concerned about the quality of extended virtual learning.
Some parents in the county withdrew their children from public school and enrolled in private schools in hopes of returning to in-person learning in the fall.
The county says anyone who violates the new order is guilty of a misdemeanor and would be subject to up to a year in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both.
The order applies to all private schools, including those affiliated with religious institutions or otherwise considered independent.
Montgomery County Public Schools and neighboring public school districts recently announced they will open the school year entirely online.
Dr. Gayles said he will reevaluate his order before Oct. 1 to determine if it should be extended, terminated or amended.
Gov. Larry Hogan on Saturday afternoon criticized the county's decision: