Hogan Clashes With County Health Officials Over School Reopenings


Following the abrupt closure of the 2019-2020 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic prompted MCPS to begin planning for distance learning. On Aug. 7, the Board of Education (BOE) approved a proposal that made the first semester of the new MCPS school year virtual, with revisions made until Aug. 25. However, Governor Larry Hogan later announced in a press conference Aug. 27 that all Maryland schools were allowed to return back to in-person learning, according to WBAL News 11.

The announcement spurred various counties to start planning for in-person learning; including Garrett County, Frederick County, Cecil County, Calvert County and Worcester County, who intend to return at a sooner date. An assessment regarding the local status of the virus—which tests whether the positivity rate is less than, equal to, or greater than five percent—must be completed in order to reopen schools.

Yet to many school systems, including MCPS, Hogan’s announcement came as a surprise; many counties had recently decided to begin virtual classes after months of deliberation and planning. Both teachers and students alike were shocked.

I was actually pretty surprised by Governor Hogan’s announcement to return to school,” English teacher Sean Pang said. “It’s almost like [Hogan] is sending mixed messages, and I can’t say I agree with his strong recommendation for schools reopening when a vaccine is still unavailable.”

In response to Hogan’s announcement, MCPS signed an agreement with the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) Aug. 30, which notifies teachers 45 days prior to the return of in-person learning, according to The Moco Show. In addition, this agreement includes a maximum of 300 minutes in-person learning, at least 11 hours of planning time and a return to regular grading and reporting

With the future set on returning to school, there are still concerns for the health and safety of students and staff.  

I like to be on the safer side and urge MCPS to delay reopening until we understand more about this virus and have the resources to provide safety for everyone,” Pang said.
Meanwhile, to others, the idea of going back to in-person learning was something to celebrate.

“I wasn’t really looking forward to online school [all year], because I focus best when I’m in a learning space,” senior Ekaterina Deadrick said. “Governor Hogan announcing that schools were clear to return was super relieving to me, because I thought it meant things were starting to go back to normal.”

In addition, many think taking the proper measures and precautions would prevent the spread of the infectious virus at schools.

“Mask requirements would be nice, and increased ventilation in the school, similar to what malls are doing. Also it would be nice if they encouraged hand sanitizer usage,” Deadrick said.
While COVID-19 still bears a strong presence in the community, reopening schools in February is an on-going debate. Re-evaluation of MCPS’ condition will occur in late fall, which will determine whether or not it is safe for students to return for the second semester.