22BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore’s Archbishop William Lori Monday greeted Catholic school students who returned to class in person for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Because of the pandemic, it’s quite a different start to the school year. Schools are doing temperature checks for students as well as making sure they fill out health questionaries.
“This is a very special year opening under very special circumstances. I just wanted to offer some encouragement, certainly to our great educational leaders who have worked so hard to ensure we open in a way that is entirely safe and responsible,“ Archbishop Lori said. “I wanted to see our kids who are so glad to be back in school and also to express my support for the parents who have entrusted their young people to our great schools.“
There are social distancing measures in place and students must wear masks.
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“It came pretty apparent over the summer that we really had to try to do this for the sake of our young people’s education, but also for the sake of their social and emotional wellbeings,” he said. “So we wanted to do this as quickly as we could but also having safety as our paramount concern.”
Public schools are not yet open for in-person classes, just virtual learning. Gov. Larry Hogan last week they could reopen across the state based on health metrics but drew criticism because he made that announcement just days before the start of the school year.
“And we’re not going to order them to go back and open schools, but we’re going to go back to them and strongly suggest that since the numbers have drastically improved since many of them made these decisions or started to work on their plans that they were going to provide incentives as Dr. Salmon said for people working toward getting plans to get kids returned to class, classrooms for some instruction,” the governor said.
There was an earlier controversy where the governor ruled Montgomery County health officials who said it was not safe for any schools to reopen for in-person learning until at least October.
On Monday, the Maryland State Education Association said teachers “had the wind completely knocked out of their sails” following Hogan’s announcement last week.
“After closely following and being involved in regular discussions about how to protect local students and staff, educators were floored by accusations that districts failed to do the hard work to get students back into a hybrid model at some point this year, and certainly as it is safe to do so,” MSEA President Cheryl Bost wrote in a letter urging the State Board of Education to reject Superintendent Karen Salmon’s proposed scheduling requirements.
Bost added that teachers feel “disrespected,” “deflated” and “demoralized” by the plan.
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An online petition started Sunday urging the state to reject Salmon’s plan has received thousands of signatures.