ANNAPOLIS (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan and State Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon toured three schools on the Eastern Shore earlier Tuesday morning as Maryland gets back to school for the fall.

Busy hallways and full classrooms have been replaced with social distancing and masks.

The handful of schools are unique because they have some teachers who have returned to the classroom along with a handful of students who would do better with in-person instruction such as children with special needs.

The governor said he thought some students might be struggling, but only saw smiling faces and excited kids ready to see each other after months away.

“They were so excited to be back,” he said.

The students are a small majority of the nearly 900,000 children in Maryland public schools, the overwhelming majority of whom will be doing their learning online.

Later this fall, some districts will consider allowing some in-person instruction.

The pandemic forced the previous school year to end on an unusual note, and this new year will start in the same way. But educators across the state are trying to maintain some sense of normalcy fo students.

Last month the governor authorized schools to open in person, citing improving COVID-19 metrics.

“I think today the governor got to see what we hope is gonna be possible in many other school systems in the coming days and weeks,” Dr. Salmon said.

Caroline County Superintendent Patricia Saelens said while the system has always had food service even when schools were shut down, internet connectivity has been a challenge in Caroline County as they work to double their broadband so students can get online.

“It is definitely a challenge for us,” she said, adding that those who could not get online were in the classrooms.

When asked about mixed messaging on whether students should be back in classrooms for in-person learning or virtual learning, Gov. Hogan reiterated that local jurisdictions have the power.

“We never told anybody they had to get back to school,” Gov. Hogan said.

He added the state had asked them to come up with a plan- which 16 did- with the other eight saying they wouldn’t be coming back for the whole year.

Ava-joye Burnett

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