State approves waiver on county's child care capacity after debate

State approves waiver on county’s child care capacity after debate

Request was formerly denied citing safety concerns

| Published:
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Montgomery County child care providers will not be required to change their child-to-teacher ratios after the state granted the county’s waiver request to keep relaxed capacity.

The approval, announced Thursday evening, followed a debate between the state and county after Gov. Larry Hogan’s Oct. 1 announcement that child care programs would again be subject to Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) that set capacity at 20 in each classroom, with a maximum child-to-teacher ratio of 10 to 1, after Nov. 30.

County Executive Marc Elrich requested a waiver to allow the county to maintain a relaxed child-to-teacher ratio of 14 to 1 — for a maximum of 15 per classroom — because it has not yet entered Phase 3 of reopening and because recent increases in COVID-19 cases in children and youth created a need to continue restrictions.

Having a lower level would force child care providers to hire more people for every 10 children they serve, or let go of up to four children in their care.

State Superintendent Karen Salmon temporarily allowed the ratio to change to 14 to 1 during the state’s second phase of reopening.

Salmon rejected the county’s waiver request in a letter on Friday, citing safety concerns.
But Elrich pushed back in another letter on Tuesday, calling the rejection “incomprehensible, punitive and regrettable.”

Child care programs would be forced to close because they can’t afford additional staffing or the loss of clients due to capacity limits, he wrote.

County Council members also criticized the state’s decision and blamed it on the “deteriorating” relationship between the county and Hogan’s office.

On Wednesday, Mike Ricci, a spokesman for Hogan, told Bethesda Beat in an email that Salmon was reviewing the county’s request after speaking with state Sen. Nancy King, who represents District 39 in Montgomery County.

He wrote that he found it “sad that any of our officials would accuse the state of ‘playing politics’ on this.”

In a Thursday evening press release, Elrich said the county pushed for the waiver to ensure the safety of child care providers and the families they serve.

“In addition, we wanted to make sure that the providers have teacher-child ratios that make operating economically viable for them,” he said. “I understand how important child care is to all families with young children and especially to frontline and essential workers who are required to work outside their homes every day. Today’s decision is really a victory for them.”

The waiver covers a child-to-teacher ratio of 14 to 1 for providers caring for children between 3 years old and 12 years old.

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.

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