Montgomery Co. leaders reject Hogan’s late call for in-classroom learning

There’s no turning back for Maryland’s largest public school system. Students in Montgomery County will start their school year on Monday with all-virtual learning, despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s sudden call Thursday to bring back in-classroom instruction.

County Executive Marc Elrich and the county council issued a joint statement, reaffirming their support for the school board’s decision, stating that it was done to “keep our children, teachers and education professionals safe.”

They also said they are “dismayed and perplexed by the governor’s call, just four days before students are set to resume the school year.”

“We think that we made the right decision, I support the school board…they ultimately were the ones who felt it wasn’t safe for the faculty and the students and the staff that have to be there,” Elrich said.

Hogan said on Thursday that, based on improved COVID-19 health metrics, every county school system in Maryland is authorized to begin safely reopening. Each of the state’s 24 jurisdictions now have positivity rates below 5%.

The governor cannot order the schools to resume in-person learning but he urged local school boards to quickly develop plans that take advantage of the reduced coronavirus caseload and resume some level of in-person instruction.

“The weekend before the schools are about to open, after every school has made a decision, he says you all should actually open in person?” Elrich asked rhetorically. “It seems more political than it does based on science, because when I talk to health officers I’m not getting ‘Yeah this is a perfect, great thing we should go do it.'”

“Ultimately, if he has other political ambitions, he’s got to run in a Republican primary.” Elrich said. “There seems to be a political divide on a scientific question, which I find bizarre.”

The county executive said Hogan could have provided reopening guidelines a month ago.

The county’s first semester of online learning runs through Jan. 29. The school system has said it will reassess the plan in November for what should be done in the second semester in February.

Elrich said the county backs the school system’s plan of moving toward a blended virtual/in-person plan when the time is right.

The county executive added that Montgomery County residents have largely been following guidelines for mask-wearing and social distancing.

“What we’re hoping is that they stick with the guidelines…..I miss normal life as much as everybody does, I know that a weariness sets in when you’re always dealing with a crisis, but I’m hoping people maintain their patience and their understanding,” Elrich said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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