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Hogan authorizes all Maryland counties to reopen schools

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday he will authorize all counties in the state to reopen schools for in-person classes.

“That’s just the way our laws work, the elected and appointed school boards have the authority to make these decisions,” Hogan said in a Thursday press conference. “Some of those local school systems have asked for more guidance and more metrics. We’re not going to order them to back and open schools, but we’re going to go back to them and strongly suggest that since the numbers have dramatically improved since many of them made these decisions or started to work on their plans, we’re going to provide incentives for people working towards getting plans to get kids to return to the classroom.”

Hogan said he understands administrators are motivated by a desire to keep students safe, but added “it’s easier to say we’re not going to bring any kids back for the rest of the year as opposed to sitting down and doing the hard work of trying to figure out, how could we get kids back in for safe instruction? It’s just a lot of hard work, and we’re going to ask them to go back and do some more of that hard work.”

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The governor noted that 16 Maryland school districts have said in-person class will resume at least part-time in the fall, while another eight have no plans for in-person reopening. Hogan said the eight districts’ decision “doesn’t make any sense,” adding “we’re going to go back and ask them to reconsider.”

He stressed the improvement in state numbers since plans were made to restart the school year with online classes, and said that should factor into the decision.

"There is broad and overwhelming agreement that finding a way to begin safely returning children to classrooms must be a priority. There is no substitute for in-person instruction," Hogan said.

The governor, who has frequently criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE’s handling of the coronavirus, distinguished his position on schools reopening from the president’s.

“I remember the president saying he was going to order all the schools to immediately open … we don’t have that authority to tell school systems what they must do," he said.

Hogan added, however, that his administration aimed to offer financial incentives for schools to open for in-person instruction. 

“I think we’re going to go back and put pressure on them … it’s not acceptable to say you’re just going to shut for the rest of the year.”