State Superintendent Recommends at Least 3.5 Hours Daily Live Instruction

Maryland State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon wants schools to offer an average of 3.5 hours of live virtual instruction per day this fall. 

All school systems were required to submit their fall semester plans to the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) by Aug. 14. At an MSDE meeting Monday, Salmon said that while the plans are still being reviewed, they varied in how much time school systems designated for synchronous and asynchronous learning. She said the figure 3.5 is an average based on plans submitted and Maryland code that says public schools have to be open for instruction for at least three hours every school day. Synchronous learning is live and students can interact with each other and teachers. Asynchronous learning is independent and includes pre-recorded and pre-planned lessons. 

Salmon recommended that the state board of education approve the time requirement. 

“I want to make sure that all students have the same opportunities across the state for learning, and I think this is very, very crucial,” Salmon said. The vote on her recommendation has been tabled until Tuesday or a possibly later date.

She said school systems that did not include at least 3.5 hours of live instruction should re-evaluate their plans as soon as possible. According to Montgomery County Public Schools’ (MCPS) most recent fall draft plan, “All students will have live (synchronous) instruction and a full day of instructional experiences.” For middle and high school students, live instruction “will include full class periods, with teachers fully engaged with their students for the duration of the lesson.” The draft plan included sample instruction days, however no schedules were official. On Tuesday, the MCPS Board of Education will meet to vote on an education recovery plan. 

Some state board of education members were concerned about the broad recommendation. Jean Halle​, vice president of the board, said 3.5 hours may be too long for younger children to stay tuned into live instruction. She recommended that the board defer Salmon’s recommendation until there is more clarity on it and until superintendents from around the state can offer input. 

Lori Morrow asked Salmon to clarify what she meant when she recommended “an average” of 3.5 hours of daily live instruction. Morrow asked if Salmon meant that schools should offer at least 3.5 hours of live instruction daily, or 17.5 hours weekly even if hours vary day-by-day. 

After hearing several questions, Salmon said she would do more research and come back to the board Tuesday with more specificity. The board will vote Tuesday or at a later date if more information is needed.

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