As President Donald Trump continues to demand a return to in-person classes for schools around the country despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the school attended by his youngest son has received an order prohibiting on-campus learning for the start of the school year.
Montgomery County, Maryland, on Friday issued a directive demanding that private schools not conduct in-person learning until October 1. Barron Trump, who is slated to enter 9th grade in the fall, attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, a private school in Potomac, Maryland, part of Montgomery County.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have based our decisions on science and data,” Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles said in a statement. “At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers. 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.”
St. Andrew’s school administrators have stated a desire to start the school year in early September, on-time and with in-person learning for the staff and students, according to a letter sent to parents last month and seen by CNN. However, the school noted a final decision was to be made the week of August 10.
“We are hopeful that in September most of our students will be able to return to on-campus learning and relationships,” wrote St. Andrew’s Head of School Robert Kosasky in a letter to parents. “We will continue to follow guidance of appropriate health officials and refine both our hybrid and distance learning plans.”
St. Andrew’s faculty and staff have since May been preparing for in-person, combination in-person and virtual, and fully virtual learning scenarios for all of the student body. St. Andrew’s has 645 students in its student body, and tuition for the upper school is approximately $45,000 a year.
CNN has reached out to St. Andrew’s and the White House for comment on the new order preventing private schools from in-person learning until October.
Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos dismissed calls this week for the Trump administration to release a national plan aimed at opening schools, saying there was no place for such federal power flexing. But she still used her national platform to demand that all schools open even though the virus still rages in multiple hot zones.
And at a Thursday news conference, the President reiterated his desire for schools to reopen with in-person learning as quickly as possible.
“Indefinite school closures will inflict lasting harm to our nation’s children,” Trump said. “We must follow the science, get students safely back to school while protecting children, teachers, staff and family.”
Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been a vocal critic of Trump on several matters pertaining to coronavirus and the federal response, disagreed with the Montgomery County directive, saying in a statement that the decision for private and parochial schools to open in-person or virtually should not be determined by politicians.
“I strongly disagree with Montgomery County’s decision to mandate the closure of private and parochial schools. As long as these schools develop safe plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community. This is a decision for schools and parents, not politicians,” he wrote.
Gayles in his order cited rising coronavirus cases in Maryland as part of the reason for the October 1 decision.
Maryland has seen more than 89,300 Covid-19 cases and has reported at least 3,506 deaths from the virus, with increasing caseloads over the past two weeks, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
This story has been updated with a statement from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.