Gov. Hogan overrides Montgomery County’s school closure directive

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MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — Gov. Hogan amended an emergency order Monday to override the Montgomery County health officer’s directive last week for reopening private schools.

The governor’s amendment prohibits a blanket school closure, allowing both private and public schools to make their own decisions on reopening schools.

On Friday, Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles issued a directive prohibiting private schools in the county from opening for in-person instruction through Oct. 1, 2020. The county said it was effective immediately.

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer,” Hogan said in a press release Monday.

The governor’s amended emergency order said local governments can order businesses, facilities and other establishments to close or modify operations in accordance to safety guidelines, but this power does not extend to school systems.

““To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics. As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community,” Hogan said.

Montgomery County Public Schools previously decided to continue virtual learning through the end of January 2021, under Gayle’s advice. However, private schools like Mater Amoris Montessori School decided to conduct outdoor classrooms in the fall.

In the Friday press release for Gayle’s private school directive, he said: “At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich tweeted after the amendment was announced, saying:

The state administration previously said school systems can decide how they wish to reopen, as long as in-person instruction includes physical distancing, regular hand washing and wearing face masks.

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