State Approves County’s Previously-Denied Waiver for Early Childcare Centers

After a second letter from Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon approved the county’s initially-rejected request asking to continue relaxed teacher-child ratios in early childcare facilities.

“Since your first correspondence, we have seen Maryland reporting a seven-day positivity rate of 6.82% and a case rate of 30.9 per 100K,” Salmon said in a letter Thursday explaining her delayed approval. In a statement, Elrich thanked her.

“I want to thank Maryland Superintendent Karen Salmon for approving the child care provider teacher-child ratio waiver,” Elrich said Thursday. “We pushed for this waiver because we wanted to ensure that child care facilities for teachers, children and their families are safe.”

The waiver was previously denied on Friday, Nov. 13.

On Nov. 4, Elrich sent Salmon a letter asking to let the county maintain the teacher-child ratio, in classrooms with three and four-year-olds, at 1:14 instead of changing it to 1:10 as required by the state by the end of November. Gov. Larry Hogan and Salmon announced in October that childcare facilities can return to their normal ratios. For centers with three and four-year-olds, the state standard is up to 20 children with a ratio of one teacher to 10 students. Montgomery County did not follow in any further reopening for childcare; the county’s capacity limit is 15 for early childcare facilities while maintaining a 1:14 ratio.

In her response denying the waiver on Friday, Salmon said the 1:10 ratio was important in ensuring children’s safety.

Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles and county councilmembers discussed the denial during a meeting Tuesday, before it was approved Thursday. Gayles explained that if the ratio tightened to 1:10 as the state wanted, the number of students who can be in the classroom decreases due to the county’s 15-person limit. According to a memo from the council, the county was also concerned about childcare centers being unable to provide additional staffing, given that businesses are already struggling.

Gayles also noted that jurisdictions are allowed some authority to make their own reopening decisions, and said that Elrich would send a second letter.

Councilmembers were upset by the initial rejection and some reflected on what they believe is a need for a better relationship between the state and the county.

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