ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — On the heels of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement that schools statewide can move toward reopening as coronavirus metrics improve, local school systems said they have no plans to make any immediate changes to their virtual starts to the academic year.
Thursday evening, Gov. Hogan, Maryland State Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon and Maryland Department of Health Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan said all jurisdictions in the state have shown enough improvement that some form of in-person learning is possible in each county and Baltimore City.
Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said that, “At a time when educators are focused on working hard to make the best of this year for students, the governor and superintendent are focused on throwing school communities under the bus.”
“They chose to ambush and second guess the hard decisions that local boards of education, parents, and educators have made to keep students and schools safe,” Bost said. “In the continued absence of adequate state and federal funds to help schools open safely—to include measures such as rapid testing, certified ventilation systems, and needed PPE—this is a recipe for chaos, confusion, distrust, and deepening the inequities that too many of our students face.”
Anne Arundel County: Students in Anne Arundel County will begin the school year online as planned.
Superintendent George Arlotto said despite the state’s suggestion, the metrics don’t support moving to full in-person learning:
“Since we began discussing the reopening of schools, we have said we would proceed aggressively but prudently to get our students and staff back into school buildings in a safe manner. We had another in a series of continuing conversations with the Department of Health today after learning of the new guidance through the Governor’s announcement.
“We will begin the school year virtually because the metrics do not put us in a position to consider full in-person instruction at this time, but will continue to push forward with plans to hold small in-person instruction for some students with special needs and students at our Centers of Applied Technology. We are also continuing to plan for the logistical implementation of a safe hybrid learning model across our county as quickly as possible. That will not happen overnight, and it will require the collaborative efforts and willingness of our families, our teachers and other employees, and our contractors.”
Baltimore City: Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises said students will still start the year off virtually.
“We are continuing to start the year off virtually. We have said that,” she said.
Baltimore County: Students in Baltimore County will begin the school year online as planned.
Superintendent Dr. Darryl Williams said the school system must ensure that it can reopen safely:
“From the start of the pandemic, and as we began planning for the reopening of schools, we indicated we would work with Baltimore County health officials to ensure we are following the guidance provided by them and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The safety and health of our students and staff have always been our top priorities. On August 27, Governor Hogan and State Superintendent Salmon indicated that school systems across the state are now authorized to reopen with in-person instruction, but we must still ensure we can do so safely.
At this time, we are still moving forward with a virtual reopening, beginning September 8, but we will immediately begin to look at our plan to incorporate already created hybrid models that include a phased-in plan for small groups of students to return to our buildings. As we implement this small-group phased-in approach and are sure students and staff are safe, we will continue to evaluate the implementation and add groups of students until all have returned to school. This will take time to implement, but we promise to keep you informed as we move forward. Please continue to check the website and look for messages we will send to our families and staff through our phone notification system.”
During a virtual meeting Thursday, Community Superintendents for Baltimore County Public Schools Christina Byers said that, while the school system acknowledges the governor’s recommendations, it will not be addressing in-person instruction right now.
“You should be aware that local superintendents and local boards did not receive any advanced notice about the details of today’s announcement,” she said.
Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski had harsh words regarding Gov. Hogan’s decision.
He said, “Gov. Hogan has been absent for months on calls where I and other local leaders have been asking for re-opening guidelines from the state.”
“Now, days before schools open, the Governor and Superintendent Salmon have finally released their guidance, while dangling $10 million to convince historically underfunded systems to open — whether they are ready or not,” Olszewski said. “That’s not leadership. Maryland students and families deserve better.”
Calvert County: Superintendent Daniel Curry tweeted the announcement will not lead to any immediate changes for students, who will begin classes virtually on September 2.
For those who saw the press conference today with Gov. Hogan and State Superintendent Dr. Salmon, I want to assure that the message in no way alters our immediate plans. We are starting school online on 9/2 and following our recovery plan to bring more children in over time.
— Daniel D Curry (@CalvertSuper) August 27, 2020
Cecil County: Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson said the school system’s current plan calls for a re-evaluation of its reopening plans every 30 days. Virtual learning will begin on Tuesday:
“Our current Recovery Plan includes a reassessment every 30 days to determine if more students can be brought into buildings. We are encouraged by the governor’s announcement yesterday that Maryland school systems now have the local authority to move towards in-person instruction. We will continue to work with the Cecil County Health Department as we move closer to being able to expand face-to-face instruction.”
Charles County: Virtual instruction will begin as planned, Superintendent Kimberly Hill said in a statement:
“I want to assure teachers, parents and students of Charles County Public Schools that the Governor’s message yesterday has not changed out plans to open online with virtual instruction on Monday, Aug. 31.
“Our Reopening Plan outlines how CCPS will safely bring groups of students back to our classrooms throughout this year.”
— CCPS (@CCPS) August 28, 2020
Harford County: Virtual instruction will begin as planned. On September 8, learning support centers will reopen to roughly five percent of students, Superintendent Sean Bulson wrote in a message on the school system’s website:
“At a press conference on August 27, 2020 at 4:00 p.m., the Governor of Maryland, the Honorable Larry Hogan, and the State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Karen Salmon, shared their desire for all Maryland schools to open for in-person instruction this coming school year. We have started to hear from concerned parents, guardians, and staff who want to know how this will impact our plans for the beginning of the school year.
“On September 8, Learning Support Centers in our school buildings will open, welcoming more than 5% of our student population across the county. We have safety protocols in place to closely monitor the Learning Support Centers to ensure bringing students and staff into our school buildings does not contribute to increased transmission of the Coronavirus.
“We are working with the Harford County Health Department and the Board of Education to develop plans for safely and gradually returning additional groups of students to in-person instruction, if conditions permit, this Fall. We agree that there is no substitute for in-person learning. While we want to do this expeditiously, every phase of students returning requires intensive and thoughtful planning that ensures the safety of all of our student populations. Until then, we will begin the school year with virtual instruction as planned.”
Howard County: Classes will begin virtually on September 8 as planned. While current plans call for students to learn remotely through the first semester, the school board will review its plans on October 22.
Superintendent Michael Martirano released the following statement:
“We have received questions from the community related to today’s press conference by the Governor and State Superintendent of Schools. The Howard County Board is Education voted to start virtually for the first semester and implement in person supports for small groups of students with plans to reevaluate on October 22 for the second semester. As we have done since the start of the pandemic, the Board and I will continue to take all input by the Maryland State Department of Education into consideration when making decisions. We will review this new information and guidance as soon as the details are provided to superintendents.
“This does not impact the start of school on September 8 or any of the preparations that have already been communicated to families.”
Montgomery County: The school board will meet in the coming weeks to update its education plan for the 2020-2021 school year. The August 31 virtual start date will not change.
The school system and school board issued a joint statement after Thursday’s announcement:
“We thank Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon for their guidance on the return to in-person instruction for local school districts. However, we are deeply disappointed by the last-minute announcement of this critical information for school systems. We know many in our community will have questions about what this new guidance means for our students. Please allow us time to thoughtfully assess these important developments and continue to prepare for a successful start to the school year.”
“As we shared earlier this month, we are working with county health officials on a process that will allow us to bring in small groups of students, such as students in specific special education programs. The Board of Education will meet in the coming weeks to continue to discuss a plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Our focus remains on the academic needs and the health and safety of our students and staff.”
Prince George’s County: Classes in Prince George’s County will begin virtually as planned.
County Executive Angela Alsobrooks released a statement saying the county will keep working with medical experts on what changes to make to learning:
“The health, safety and wellbeing of Prince George’s County residents is my top priority. As we have done since the onset of this unprecedented pandemic, we will continue to make informed and responsible decisions based on the advice of our medical professionals. While we are pleased to see our COVID-19 infections decline, we are very clear that this virus is still active in our community. We are excited to start a new school year on Monday, and we look forward to welcoming back all of our PGCPS students, teachers and staff virtually. We will continue to work with our doctors and medical professionals and reevaluate our distance learning model as circumstances change.”
We will work with the County Executive, local health officials and the CEO to assess when it is safe for our students and employees to resume in-person learning. (3/3)
— PGCPS (@pgcps) August 27, 2020
Calvin McLaurin has a son and daughter in first and second grade. He said in-person instruction is much more effective.
“The student can focus on the teacher, you know what I’m saying, plus there’s much more camaraderie with the student with the learning and play time is much more minimal,” McLaurin said.
Shaquayah Mckenzie is a parent and educator. She said Gov. Hogan’s authorization to reopen schools is surprising.
“It’s a little unexpected, and by a little I mean a lot because schools have already planned for virtual,” she said.
For a full list of county-by-county decisions on school reopenings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here.