- The Washington Times - Friday, August 7, 2020

Republican lawmakers in the Maryland Statehouse are looking for help from Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris and the Centers from Disease Control to roll back local ordinances preventing nonpublic schools from reopening because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Their frustration lies with Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles, who countered an order from Mr. Hogan earlier this week that would stop county officials from issuing blanket closure policies and instead leave the decision up to the schools.

“We are surprised that the unelected health officer of Montgomery County has dug his heels in without science or data to support his actions,” Maryland House Minority Leader Nic Kipke said. “We also have constitutional questions about this overreach.”

Dr. Gayles then issued a second order on Wednesday, citing a different Maryland law, that would require nonpublic school buildings to remain closed through at least Oct. 1. He argued the risk of spreading the new coronavirus in schools is too great.

“County officials continue to base their public health decisions on data and the data and science, and at this point, the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students, teachers and others who work in a school building,” the county said in a statement.



The House Republicans’ frustration is only the latest in the battle over school reopenings in Maryland.

“It’s time to stop the weaponization of COVID-19 against Americans. An unelected bureaucrat, who doesn’t even live in Maryland, should not have the power or authority to override the decisions of parents for their own children’s education,” House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga said. “Parents, and the nonpublic schools children attend, have a much greater concern about the health and safety of their own families than any politician or bureaucrat.”

Dr. Gayles is also named in a lawsuit from private schools and parents arguing his order is unconstitutional.

Maryland Secretary of Health Robert Neall doubled down on the state’s position Thursday.

“The State of Maryland’s position is that all schools, including public school systems and non-public schools, be provided with the individualized opportunity to determine how they are able to comply with the federal and state COVID-19 guidance to reopen safely and protect students and staff,” Mr. Neall wrote in a memo to all county health officials.

“Those determinations should be made in close consultation with the affected schools and local health departments with Maryland Department of Health guidance,” he wrote.

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