Montgomery County parents protest as schools go virtual to help curb spread of COVID-19

TaRhonda Thomas Image
Monday, November 23, 2020
All Montco schools revert to virtual instruction beginning today
The county-wide mandate taking all schools virtual in Montgomery County, Pa. takes effect today.

LOWER MERION TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Starting Monday, all private and public schools in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania have been ordered to go virtual to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The order stays in effect through December 6.

For the last two weeks, concerned parents and students have protested as they fight against the order from county health officials.

SEE ALSO: 2 million people passed through US airports this weekend, despite COVID-19 warnings

Despite advice from health officials against unnecessary travel, the TSA reports it has screened more than two million people over the last few days.

"The greatest concern is they're shutting us down without data showing we need to shut down," said John Niehls, headmaster at Coventry Christian Schools. "So we're very concerned this could very easily turn into January February or even later."

In Montgomery County, the hospitalization numbers increased 850% from mid-September. In a letter explaining the reason for the order, Montgomery County officials said the purpose for the two-week online period is to reduce the spread during peak contagion as families celebrate Thanksgiving. They said it's necessary to protect residents.

Starting Nov. 23, through December 6, all private and public schools in Montgomery County are ordered to go virtual in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

"I think you have to make that decision based on the numbers. So I think you have to take the public into consideration and think of what's good for the greater picture instead of what you personally feel is good for you," said Jing Chien of Ardmore. "So for us, it's easy to accept their decision."

Impacted students tell Action News that they want to return to in-person schooling.

"That's a lot of relationships that I've built up with younger students that I've been able to mentor that you don't get when you're on virtual," said 12th grader Jacob Shirley of Coventry Christian Schools.

SEE ALSO: Bucks County nurses return to work after strike; 6,778 COVID-19 cases reported Saturday

Striking nurses have returned to their jobs at Saint Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

Parents said it doesn't make sense to single out schools but allow bars and restaurants to stay open. They say they're fighting for the choice to stay in person.

"As a parent, my own child, I've seen her go from straight As down to barely struggling to pass her classes at this point due to the virtual learning," said Jaret Gale of Schwenksville. "It's just very, very difficult for her to do so."

Niehls and a group of parents filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for injunctive relief and a temporary restraining order to prevent county officials from implementing the order. A judge has not ruled on the case.