Montgomery Doubles Down on Order to Close Private Schools Until October

Dr. Travis Gayles

In an ongoing dispute between Montgomery County officials and Governor Hogan on the authority to determine whether nonpublic schools can bring students back to campus, Montgomery County officials issued a new order to restrict in-person learning.

Last week, Montgomery County Health Officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, issued an order barring in-person instruction at all schools through the end of September. In response, Hogan issued a revised emergency order that bans local Health Officers from closing schools — public or private — on anything other than a case-by-case basis. The administration’s revised order nullified Montgomery County’s initial order.

Montgomery County Health Officer Gayles yesterday issued a new order to keep all Montgomery County schools, both public and nonpublic, closed for in-person classes. The new order cites the Maryland Code Annotated Health General § 18-208 and COMAR, which authorizes local health officers to “take any action or measure necessary to prevent the spread of communicable disease,” and “issue, when necessary, special instructions for control of a disease or condition.”

According to a statement from Montgomery County:

County officials continue to base their public health decisions on data and the data and science and at this point, the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students, teachers and others who work in a school building. There have been increases in transmission rates of 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.

Montgomery County Public Schools announced that all classes will be held virtually through the fall semester.

Maryland Health Secretary Robert Neall today sent a memo to local health officers stating that the health policy for the State of Maryland is that “non-public schools not be closed in a blanket manner” and instead county health officers should “carefully evaluate the facts and circumstances of each individual school.”

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.

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