Maryland Governor Overrules School Closure Mandate

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan overruled a decision by Montgomery County health officials mandating school closures, saying Monday that local schools will be able to decide when to reopen.

The governor said in a tweet that he amended an April 5 emergency order to ensure “that local schools and school systems retain the primary authority to determine when to safely reopen their facilities.” The original emergency order gave local health departments the power to close individual facilities, including schools, during the coronavirus pandemic, Fox News reported.

“The recovery plan for Maryland public schools stresses local flexibility within the parameters set by state officials,” the governor said in a statement on Twitter. “Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials.” (RELATED: Parents Sue California Governor For Refusing To Open Schools)

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines,” Hogan added. “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’s amended executive order overturns a Friday decision by Montgomery County health officer Dr. Travis Gayles to keep private schools closed through October 1st. Gayles said that “at this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers,” the Baltimore Sun reported.

The governor’s battle with local health officials comes at a time of national debate around schools reopening during the pandemic. President Donald Trump has supported reopening, calling school closures “political nonsense.” (RELATED: Trump Wants Schools To Reopen, And Teachers Unions Are Pushing Back. What Do Parents Want?)

“We have to open our schools,” the president said last month, adding that Democrats “don’t want to open because they think it will help them on November 3rd.”

Teacher’s unions have pushed back against reopening schools. The second-largest teacher’s union in the country said that they will support teacher strikes if schools reopen before their list of demands is met.