Montgomery County health officials stall on approving private school reopening plans, blame state of Maryland

Lack of direction and no guidance are just some of the claims Montgomery County health officials made against the state of Maryland on Thursday.

Officials said they are still waiting on health guidelines, including information on metrics and performance measures from the state they believe are needed in order to evaluate reopening plans for private schools.

RELATED: Here's what DC, Maryland and Virginia school districts have planned for the fall

The comments are the latest in a back-and-forth between county leaders and the administration of Governor Larry Hogan about how nonpublic schools can safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

FOX 5 has been questioning officials for weeks as more than a half dozen parents of private school students in Montgomery County filed a federal lawsuit against the county’s health officer.

FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan reached out to county health officers, Dr. Travis Gayles and Dr. Earl Stoddard on Friday, and was told by a county representative that neither of them were available to discuss this topic because “this matter is presently in litigation.” A hearing on that lawsuit was scheduled for Friday before it was canceled.

Attorney Timothy Maloney said in a letter “now is not the time for litigation, but for cooperation.”

Gayles had issued a directive ordering nonpublic schools in the county to stay closed ‪‪until October 1‬‬ in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The order was later rescinded by the county.

RELATED: Order prohibiting Montgomery County private schools from opening rescinded by health officer

Meanwhile, Anne Arundel County Health Officer Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman recommends that county private schools remain closed. But he added nonpublic schools should submit a plan that shows how they’re going to maintain staff and student safety.

He said the county has been able to approve 13 reopening plans out of the 25 submitted.

“We haven’t gotten specific guidance from the state, that is correct but what we are doing is taking information that is available and making our best approximation and moving forward,” said Kalyanaraman. “We know that waiting for days and days and trying to do this just a couple of days before schools open isn’t helpful.”

FOX 5 inquired with the Maryland Department of Health Friday and in a statement, we were told: “We are in the process of finalizing school guidance and look forward to working with our health officers on next steps.”

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