Montgomery County parents protest school shutdown amid COVID-19 surge

NORRISTOWN, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- In front of the Montgomery County Department of Health in Norristown on Saturday, a group of parents and students protested against the county's decision to shut down the schools for two weeks around Thanksgiving.

Caitlin Derstine, who is a mom in Souderton Area School District, who has a 5-year-old with special needs, says her son needs in-person learning.

"I can tell you first hand that that does not work. It's not adequate for children with special needs," said Derstine. "We will no longer let the cries of our children, the sufferings of our children, be silenced."

The county, however, says the school shutdown, scheduled from November 23 to December 6, is for everyone's safety, citing the anticipated in-person gatherings in homes for Thanksgiving.

COVID-19 cases throughout Pennsylvania are surging. In Delaware County, hundreds of people waited in cars and in line to be tested at a free clinic outside of 69th Street Terminal.

"We've chosen Upper Darby because we felt this was a community that maybe would not have access to free testing at this time, said Lori Devlin, the director of Intercommunity Health for Delaware County.

Parents at the Montgomery County rally said while they're concerned about the virus, they need to think about their children's mental health too.

"I think this needs to be a whole-child approach. We need to honor the developmental, social, economical, cultural contest of the student," said Sharon Mangun, a mom in Souderton Area School District.

The parents said they will comply with a two-week shutdown, but after that, they will hold more protests, write letters and are even threatening a lawsuit.

On Saturday, Pennsylvania reported 5,551 new COVID-19 cases.
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