Following a week of back-and-forth regarding the authority to allow or deny private schools to re-open for in-person classes, the dispute between Montgomery County and the State of Maryland appears to be headed to the federal courts.
In a predictable turn following several days of salvos, the matter of approving (or denying) private school in-person education in Montgomery County appears to be headed to federal court. The County, whose public schools will be remote offerings for the coming semester, recently sought to disallow in-person offerings in private schools as well, acting through its Health Officer. The decision has led to a series of memoranda and assertions over the ultimate decision-making authority – between the State of Maryland and the powers its has delegated or granted to the county.
School-year plans for about 32,000 students in the state’s most populous county could hang in the balance, but the conflict has reverberated much further. It has become a proxy for debates on the rights of private schools, economic and racial equity in education, and whether a state can effectively combat the deadly virus once health directives become politicized.
Hogan (R), an advocate for private schools, has twice maneuvered to strip power from Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles, who last week ordered all private school campuses closed at least through Oct. 1. Regardless of extensive safety precautions taken by individual schools, Gayles said, there are far too many coronavirus cases in the community to allow students and teachers to gather.