Maryland lawmakers want to use Montgomery County schools, staff for child care

GAITHERSBURG, MARYLAND - MARCH 20: Montgomery County Public Schools Special Needs Bus Attendant Zanashia Rowe helps distribute bags of food donated by Manna Food Center at Quince Orchard High School as part of a program to feed children while schools

A group of Maryland lawmakers representing Montgomery County are encouraging the state’s largest school district to use staff and empty school sites for child care as parents prepare for virtual learning this fall.

Around 20 delegates with the Montgomery County House Delegation wrote to the Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent this week, asking him to consider using middle and high school outdoor spaces, along with vetted employees - like a bus driver for example, or even someone else like a college student studying education to provide child care at school locations.

Maryland Delegate Jared Solomon is one of the 20 lawmakers who signed the letter. A former educator himself, Solomon tells FOX 5 the county could partner with more childcare providers already licensed and running, who have the room expand.

Montgomery County is sticking to virtual learning this fall, meaning the state’s largest school system – with over 165-thousand students enrolled last year - will again be stuck at home while the lawmakers say 80% of the county’s moms and 96% of the dads with children under 18 are in the labor force, working jobs that don’t allow them to work remotely.

“We know there are going to be families that have to go to work and students, whether English-language learners, students with special needs or disabilities, who are going to require some sort of extra support,” Solomon said.

Montgomery County teachers protested reopening schools out of safety concerns before the district decided to have virtual-only instruction this upcoming semester.

Solomon argues there would be a big difference between thousands of students returning and 50-60 appearing for in-person instruction.

“Our interest is not to force anybody back in the building who doesn’t want to or back in to a situation with students, but I think, yeah, how can we creatively, obviously we’re keeping people employed, we’re providing supports for students who need it and we’re providing help for working families who are going to be in a real bind,” the Delegate added.

The legislators did give some examples of programs they could expand on and how other jurisdictions are addressing the child care need thanks to the pandemic.

Montgomery County Superintendent Jack Smith responded to the lawmakers in another letter, noting 23 childcare facilities are either operating or will soon open MCPS sites.

Smith said the school district hasto take into account how many are visiting the schools for meal distribution. How quickly the state can license the child care providers is another concern.

Still, Smith affirmed school leaders are discussing the possibility of using empty schools for child care. He said he's working with the county government to perhaps identify public spaces that are not schools that could be used.