Maryland Public Schools to Stay Closed Remainder of Academic Year

Maryland Public Schools will remain closed for the remainder of the academic 2019-2020 school year. Online learning will continue and students will not return to campuses because of the coronavirus.

The announcement was made Wednesday at a news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon.

Salmon said, “After extensive discussions with the Maryland State Board of Education, the Maryland Health Department, and additional health experts advising the governor, I am convinced this is the appropriate decision in order to continue to protect the health and safety of our students, educators, staff, and all members of school communities throughout Maryland.”

The Maryland State Department of Education will soon be releasing its “Maryland Recovery Plan for Education,” which was organized by the state school board as well as local school superintendents. The plan is “not prescriptive,” Salmon said, but it identifies ideas for school systems—as well as sample calendars—which can help guide how students and educators safely return to school buildings.

“This document lays the groundwork for the coming months as we maintain and improve online learning opportunities and identifies methods for recovering any lost instruction time, that has occurred as a result of COVID-19,” Salmon said.

Salmon said she doesn’t imagine schools would be included in Hogan’s first of three phases for Maryland’s recovery plan. However, she said the second and third phases in the plan might implement strategies for returning to school.

Examples of these methods in the second phase might possibly include bringing groups students back to schools on an alternating day-by-day or week-by-week basis. Salmon said schools could possibly bring back students with specific needs, like those with disabilities and those learning the English language.

Salmon said the third phase of Hogan’s plan would include a full return of the student body to in person instruction. In this phase, Salmon said “schools will restructure their day-to-day operations [like meals and transportation] to be in concert with public health guidance.”

“Any return of students and staff to the classroom depends on the circumstances in each school system, and local school systems will have the flexibility to adapt the model to best serve their needs,” Salmon said.

Salmon said local school systems and school boards will also make decisions in regards to Class of 2020 graduations, so long as decisions are in compliance with Hogan’s executive orders.

“I’m confident that with the leadership from local superintendents and the collaboration among superintendents, educators, parents, and members of our school communities that we can get through this crisis together and come out stronger than ever for all of our Maryland students,” Salmon said.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith released a statement following Hogan’s new’s conference, expressing support to keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year.

“While this news is not unexpected, it doesn’t diminish the sadness and disappointment that many of us are feeling because we won’t be together in schools to learn and work together; participate in athletic and arts events; and attend end-of-the-year celebrations and graduations,” Smith said.

Smith said over the weekend, MCPS will provide an update about “the next phase of online learning, graduation, proms, promotion ceremonies, and more.”

County Executive Marc Elrich released a statement about the decision, saying, “I understand the Superintendent’s decision, and as a former teacher, I know it was not an easy one.”

“We will be working with our school superintendent and the Board of Education as well as with our Library, Recreation and Health and Human Services staffs to support our families and our students to continue to learn and grow during this difficult time. I have heard and seen some great examples of creative solutions of teachers reaching out to students, and I appreciate the dedication and hard work. We will do what we can to support you,” Elrich said.

Cheryl Bost, the president of Maryland State Education Association, also released a statement supporting the statewide decision. She added that inequities with online education need to be addressed.

“We must address the inequities within our community—whether of technology access for educators and students, food security, trauma care, or otherwise—that have been magnified by this crisis. We look forward to the day that we can return to our schools and the everyday joys, challenges, and work of educating our students,” Bost said.

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