Montgomery Health Officials Rescind Order to Close Private Schools

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Montgomery County says private schools can hold in-person instruction after a struggle with the governor over their ability to reopen.

The decision comes after several orders were issued a back and forth by the county and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan about whether private and parochial schools could hold face-to-face classes.

The county Health Officer Travis Gayles is walking back the initial order and an amended order aimed to force private schools to only meet online as the county saw a rise in cases.

Montgomery County has been one of the hardest hit counties in the state by the coronavirus. There is a total of 18,139 confirmed cases and over 700 deaths, as of Friday.

Gayles issued an order August 1 that required private and parochial schools to remain closed and operate solely online.

Following that announcement, Hogan issued an emergency order Monday barring county officials from requiring private schools to close. Hogan said in a statement that Montgomery County's order was “overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer."

A reversal Friday in Montgomery County where private schools were given the okay to reopen. Parents of those students have been stuck in the middle of a tug-of-war between the county and Gov. Larry Hogan for almost a week. News4's Shomari Stone spoke with the county executive.

Public school districts were allowed to make their own decisions about whether to conduct in-person or online classes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines,” the governor said.

Montgomery County responded by amending their original order by prohibiting classes from meeting in-person until Oct. 1.

The State Health Department then said on Thursday that blanket closures of nonpublic schools were prohibited by county leaders.

Montgomery County health officials said Friday the new decision to reverse the amended order came after the state's health department put out the policy Thursday.

Hogan said in a Tweet he approved of the county's latest move, doubling down on his previous moves.

Counties still have the authority to close any facility that is deemed to be unsafe.

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