Everyone involved in the dispute over closing private schools in Montgomery County makes certain to mention that politics played no role in their decisions. Of course, those protestations have to make one wonder if — just maybe — politics did play some role.

Gov. Larry Hogan has given great leeway to local officials to make decisions on how to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including issuing an emergency order allowing county officials to order closures or modifications at schools, businesses and organizations.

But when the Montgomery County health officer issued an order last week decreeing that no private school in the county could offer in-person instruction until at least Oct. 1, Hogan was irked to say the least. On Monday, he issued an executive order stripping local governments of the authority to issue blanket closures of schools.

Hogan said in a statement that schools themselves, both public and private, should have the primary authority to determine whether and how to open buildings for classes.

“To be clear, Maryland’s recovery continues to be based on a flexible, community-based approach that follows science, not politics,” Hogan said. “As long as schools develop safe and detailed plans that follow CDC and state guidelines, they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community.”

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich tweeted Monday afternoon that the decision to restrict non-public schools from in-person instruction “was made with one concern in mind — protecting the public health of our residents. It was not an easy decision. As we have done throughout this pandemic, we used data and science to guide us — not politics.”

What politics could we be talking about here? Well, one of the private schools that Montgomery County had ordered to stay closed until Oct. 1 is St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac.

One of the students at St. Andrew’s is Barron Trump, son of President Donald Trump. The school has been scheduled to open on Sept. 8, and President Trump has been adamant that every school in the country should be fully open to all students this fall.

Could Montgomery officials, all Democrats, have been trying to embarrass the president by keeping his son’s school closed?

Could our Republican governor, who has clashed frequently with Trump, have acted to prevent the president from being embarrassed?

Montgomery’s health officer, Dr. Travis Gayles, was one of the first health officials in the United States to require that private schools shutter this fall. Gayles and others pointed out that when Hogan first closed schools statewide in March, Montgomery was averaging four new cases a day. Its latest numbers are around 80 cases a day, they said.

Montgomery County remains second in the state in confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 18,000 as of Tuesday.

The Montgomery school board, like the Frederick County board, has already decided to not offer in-person instruction during the fall semester because of the danger of students, teachers and staff contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Gayles indicated that he wanted to keep the private schools in line with the public schools.

“At this point the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers,” Gayles told reporters last week.

The Montgomery decision drew the anger of conservative media, including Fox News host Laura Ingraham who called on Hogan to overturn the decision.

Hogan tweeted his criticism over the weekend and then issued his order on Monday afternoon.

“Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines,” Hogan said in a statement Monday. “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.”

So, no politics to see here! Nothing on either side of the road. Maybe.

(19) comments

petersamuel

Of course, these matters will be political. They have to be political. They should be political. Politics is how government is made accountable to the people. Go with "the science" is wrong for two reasons. First the science of this virus is very shaky. Most of the expert predictions about the pandemic's spread have been laughably inaccurate. And the experts keep changing their minds being against masaks before theyt were for them etc. Second the health experts suffer from tunnel vision judging everything according to its direct effect on the pandemic while ignoring the costs of the lockdowns. Dr Fauci would totally close the economy and we'd all starve if he was in charge of the country. Politics is the only way to make decisioons about the necessary trade-offs that have to be made.

Brookhawk

Oh, come on. In this country, now, EVERYTHING is political.

Reader1954

I'm sure kids going to private school don't have to worry about having to eat in a cafeteria as I doubt they have kids needing free breakfast/lunch. They for sure can bring their own lunches

TomWheatley

In the meantime, is there less money being spent due to the schools closed or just a minimal amount as the buildings still need some heat later in the year to keep pipes from freezing? Just curious.

jwhamann

I thought the press was supposed to leave any President's children out of the news out of respect.

hayduke2

They should. However, recently it doesn't seem that way. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/hannity-michelle-obama-family_n_58b8fb51e4b05cf0f3ff6bd2

Thewheelone

According to an article in today's WAPO, The Gwinnet County Schools in Georgia opened up schools for teachers to begin work for the coming school year; the next day, 260 employees were sent home to quarantine for either testing positive for the virus or having come into contact with someone who has tested positive.

NewMarketParent

@Thewheelone

You should probably post this link in the editorial article that someone put up today calling the decision by our school board to stay closed cowardly.

I have predicted that we will watch schools stutter-step all year long as they try to open and close repeatedly after infections. This is the start.

Dwasserba

"Could Montgomery officials, all Democrats, have been trying to embarrass the president by keeping his son’s school closed?" Ummmmm Who would want to be responsible for keeping Barron safe if they could avoid it?

NewMarketParent

@Dwasserba

There is a famous saying among propagandists... "Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty"

We are watching people who inherently make everything political accusing everyone else of doing that.

SJCPLibrary

Micky, the truth of the matter is that if private schools can open safely and maintain safety protocols, then knock yourselves out. But as is the case with school cafeterias, it is up to someone else (a.k.a. county Health dept.) to determine what is safe and acceptable. No school can objectively self-check to guarantee safety with food in cafeterias or with a virus that kills people.

Health departments can close down restaurants and should be able to do the same with private schools that aren't maintaining the highest standards.

micky

The education establishment hates any thing that looks like a school if they can't control it. Now they or their minions want to control their competition, private schools, parochial schools and home schools if they could. Defund the public schools, furlough the teachers and let innovation blossom in education where we need reform the most !! Discuss among yourselves !!

Dwasserba

Beware evil minions

NewMarketParent

@micky

How'd Trump University work out? Education is hard and expensive, it is a public good and we should be doing everything we can to bolster it instead of constantly trying to tear it down.

Private institutions are never held to the same high standards that public ones are because there is zero visibility into the functions of that institution. They are not required to disclose that. Public institutions offer that. You are attacking something because you have a glimpse of how the sausage is made, where in a private institution you would never have an idea.

TwoDawgs56

“Private institutions are never held to the same high standards that public ones are.” Laughable.....then why are many parents, especially in the cities, doing nearly everything they can to put their kids in private/charter schools? Why do Washington politicians send their kids to the finest private schools vs the decrepit public ones? And one more thing, the Baltimore school district spends the third highest $$$$ in the country per pupil, yet not one student in its 13 high schools is proficient in math, and not much better in English. This is 100% political, propagated by the teacher’s union.

NewMarketParent

@TwoDawgs56

Why is that laughable?

Many parents believe that you can throw money at every problem and solve it. Sometimes it works, a lot of time it doesn't.

Maybe many politicians realize that they have been failing our schools for a long time and are cool with doing nothing about it and privatization.

There is one pretty good predictor of how you kids will do in life... Want to know what it is?

How much money you have....

So... person of wealth... sends kids to private schools.... kids do well... hence it must've been the schools and not the money....hmmmm

https://www.wnpr.org/post/georgetown-study-wealth-not-ability-biggest-predictor-future-success#:~:text=A%20big%20part%20of%20the,indicator%20of%20success%20than%20intelligence.

seanjames

yes, rich people can send their kids to rich schools and get amazing educations. poor people do not have that option. not all private schools are created equal, and that's the point. they want to make the system as unequal as possible so they can more easily keep their status. what they want is to privatize it so that *only* their kids can get an education. not only will this decrease their taxes, but it will also ensure a large pool of uneducated people that are ripe for exploitation. people are just another commodity to be used to their advantage and tossed away if it doesn't financially benefit them. if that isn't patently obvious to you in this pandemic, then you either have an ulterior motive or you're grotesquely stupid

hayduke2

Wow, so much hate of public education and so little proof. Rant on!

rogy

FCPS teachers get a raise in the middle of the worst economic decline since the depression while UMD and other higher education schools nationwide are facing furloughs and layoffs. You'll never convince me that the teacher's union doesn't have their boots planted firmly on the necks of our legislators.

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