Councilmember Riemer: Montgomery County’s Reopening Efforts Should Prioritize Students

Pre-Pandemic | July 2019

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer is concerned that Montgomery County isn’t prioritizing getting students back into the classroom.

In a letter sent to county residents Monday, Riemer explained why he was the only Councilmember to vote against allowing restaurants and bars to apply for a permit to serve alcohol after 10 p.m.

“While the proposal did have some safeguards, I remain concerned that allowing indoor late night socializing can only result in more COVID cases and make it harder to reopen schools,” Riemer said in the letter.

Riemer supports the county’s decision to keep schools closed through at least Jan. 31, but he argues that as the county moves forward with loosening coronavirus and social distancing restrictions, it will become more difficult to get the health metrics where they need to be to in order to reopen schools.

He says in the letter, “Research is showing very troubling signs about learning loss during COVID. We may spend years recovering. Opportunity gaps are intensifying and the most vulnerable children are paying the biggest price.”

MyMCMedia asked Riemer whether there has been enough conversations happening to plan for reopening schools safely, in terms of making sure there’s proper ventilation, available testing, personal protective equipment, and more.

Riemer said there needs to be more conversation concerning these logistics. But, the council is “funding an appropriation to address all of the ventilation systems.” There’s also talk about small group learning, Riemer said.

Riemer acknowledges there are no easy answers to get Montgomery County to a safe place to reopen. So, MyMCMedia asked Riemer what questions county leaders need to consider to prioritize reopening schools safely.

Riemer said the county needs to consider the logistics of how the county would support contact tracings efforts, testing, and how resources can be targeted at “the communities that are harder hit” by the coronavirus.

“You can never go wrong trying to prioritize education and schools. You know kids are the future and they’re our future, so we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can,” Riemer said.

Full Letter from Riemer on Prioritizing Students

Here’s a look at the full letter Riemer emailed to county residents Monday:

Dear resident,

I want you to know that, while I strongly support the decision not to open MCPS this Fall, getting our children back into their classrooms is an urgent priority for me.

Research is showing very troubling signs about learning loss during COVID. We may spend years recovering. Opportunity gaps are intensifying and the most vulnerable children are paying the biggest price.

That’s why I voted against the Executive Branch’s recent decision to allow restaurants to serve alcohol to patrons indoors after 10pm, hours that are generally more for socializing than eating.

While the proposal did have some safeguards, I remain concerned that allowing indoor late night socializing can only result in more COVID cases and make it harder to reopen schools.

This may seem somewhat dissonant since I am also the Councilmember who launched the Nighttime Economy Task Force in 2013 to modernize our alcohol laws, leading to easier restaurant operations and an entire new local brewery, winery and distillery industry.

But I am also a parent of two MCPS students, a resident of this community, and I am concerned that bar or restaurant patrons gathering indoors, without masks, drinking late in the evening will be more likely to spread the virus.

The hardest part of this moment is that there are no easy answers – we cannot just will the virus away – and our restaurant industry is suffering tremendously right now.

But if late night socializing causes more viral spread, it will be harder and less safe for our teachers and families to reopen schools. That’s why I voted no.

Your feedback is welcome at councilmember.riemer@montgomerycountymd.gov

Thank you,
Hans

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Deirdre Byrne

About Deirdre Byrne

Deirdre Byrne is a social media coordinator for Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at dbyrne@mymcmedia.org or on twitter at @DeirdreByrneMCM.

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