Should Private Schools Follow the Same Reopening Guidelines as Public Schools?
By: Charles Xue
Due to an expected second wave of coronavirus, many public schools have decided to keep students safe through distance learning. On Friday, health officials in Maryland said that private schools were required to do the same.
However, Governor Larry Hogan overruled that statement, saying that private schools should choose for themselves and that health officials did not have the power to order private schools to teach online.
This dispute represents a longstanding discussion about inequality in the United States, with private schools having more resources, smaller class sizes, and more support from influential people.
“This had nothing to do with public health, and everything to do with their own notions of fairness and equity,” said Timothy Maloney, the lawyer for parents suing the county health officer.
For example, in New Mexico, Albuquerque Academy, a private school, has laid out its expensive reopening plan, including things like installing portable air filters and touchless water fountains. Meanwhile, public schools in Albuquerque have decided to teach online this year due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.
New Mexico’s public education department doesn’t have the authority to tell Albuquerque Academy how to teach, but the governor suggested that private schools should only operate at 25% capacity. Luckily, Albuquerque Academy decided to follow these guidelines, and will have teachers teach on campus, but students will have to learn remotely.
President Trump has also been contributing to this discussion, going as far as to withhold funding from schools who don’t teach in-person. “Much of our Country is doing very well,” stated Trump on Monday. “Open the Schools!”
Nearly 90% of all students attend public schools, giving them larger class sizes and less flexibility when it comes to changing their curriculum or the number of staff members.
Opening schools is challenging. Some schools that opened this week have already had to quarantine students or staff members. One school in Cherokee County, Georgia had to shut down a classroom after a student tested positive.
However, private schools have some advantages when reopening, such as the ability to make decisions based on the wants and needs of a much smaller community than public schools do.