Montgomery Co. Private School Parents Mobilize After County Shuts Down In-Class Instruction

Private school parents mobilize online after Montgomery County cancels in-class instruction 

*** A few members of the “Open Montgomery County, MD Private Schools” Facebook group contacted A Miner Detail Sunday. A Miner Detail published group administrator Kevin O’Rourke’s comments after a group member shared a screenshot with A Miner Detail via Facebook Messenger. A Miner Detail did not directly interview Mr. O’Rourke. Though A Miner Detail’s request to join the private Facebook group was denied, A Miner Detail Editor in Chief Ryan Miner extends an interview request to the group’s administrators and its members as well as an invitation to join A Miner Detail Podcast to discuss their position. A Miner Detail reached out via Facebook Messenger to two group administrators since publication but has not received a response. A Miner Detail apologizes for any confusion and looks forward to its future correspondence with group members.***

Parents with students in Montgomery County private and religious-based schools used the weekend to mobilize online.

Montgomery County’s Health Officer on Friday directed all in-class instruction for non-public schools to be canceled until Oct. 1.

The county’s order is effective immediately.

“Citing the need to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents as well as parents, students, teachers and staff from the spread of COVID-19, County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles today directed nonpublic schools in Montgomery County to remain closed for in-person instruction through Oct. 1, 2020,” according to the county’s release.

Private Facebook Group Created

A private Facebook group that calls itself “Open Montgomery County, MD Private Schools now has over 2700 members.

The group was created this weekend.

Its description says it aims to “discuss the overreach of the Montgomery County Health Officer and County Executive in the closing of Private Schools in Montgomery County, MD.”

Kevin O’Rourke, one of the group administrators, wrote Sunday that Bethesda Beat, a Bethesda-based media outlet, requested to join the group “only to observe the discussion.”

“I reached out to let them know that I could help facilitate getting someone willing to do an interview. However, they were only interested in observing the group, which I deemed to be a wanton violation of our membership expectations of being part of a private group,” O’Rourke said.

The administrators of the group, O’Rourke said, are “doing their best to keep it to relevant stakeholders.”

“The approval process is individually done in an attempt to limit lurkers with intent to sow discord and create problems for our members.”

MoveOn.Org Petition 

A online petition calls on the Montgomery County Council to “Rescind Montgomery County’s July 31 order closing private schools’ in-person instruction through October 1.”

“Our kids need to be in school to learn. Private and parochial schools should be empowered to develop safe plans that follow CDC and state plans without arbitrary and capricious interference from county officials,” the petition’s description says.

The “Keep Montgomery County Private Schools Open” petition has garnered over 930 signatures as of 10:00 a.m. Sunday.

But the petition is presented with a disclaimer.

“MoveOn volunteers reviewed this petition and determined that it either may not reflect MoveOn members’ progressive values, or that MoveOn members may disagree about whether to support this petition.”

MoveOn says it “will not promote the petition beyond hosting it on our site.”

Hogan Pushes Back Against County Order 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted Saturday that he “strongly disagrees” with Montgomery County’s latest health order.

“As long as these schools develop safe plans that follow CDC and state guidelines they should be empowered to do what’s best for their community,” Hogan said.

Hogan said private schools and its parents should decide their own course of action for reopening – not politicians.

County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles will “reevaluate the order before Oct. 1 to determine if it should be extended, terminated or amended in any way,” the county’s release said.

Bethesda blogger Robert Dyer wrote Sunday that he is “aware of two legal challenges” already in the works to challenge the county’s order.

The Archdiocese of Washington issued a statement Saturday saying it is “currently reviewing” Montgomery County’s directive, “as well as “Governor Hogan’s statements,” and will evaluate to decide how to best proceed for students and the entire community.

“The Archdiocese of Washington continues to have the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and parents uppermost in mind and heart as we make our decisions regarding the reopening of our Catholic schools,” says Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.