ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The Maryland State Board of Education voted Monday symbolically to encourage local districts to reopen schools using the guidance put forth in August.

The vote encouraged local districts to get more Maryland students back in the classroom and athletic fields.

“I have been sent many pictures of crying children in front of computers,” State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said.

Salmon described dozens of emails she got this weekend from frustrated parents.

“It’s time to shift the discussion away from the risk of opening K-12 to the risk of keeping them closed,” she said.

“Our plan can not be hiding in our homes most of the time,” board member Rose Maria Li said.

Districts across the state are limping toward in-person instruction at various paces.

Next month, 14 school systems will be in some type of hybrid instruction model. Districts across the board are facing many of the same challenges.

“Ventilation issues, transportation issues, space constraints, and enhanced personnel needs,” board member Rachel McCusker said.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

Carroll County teacher and board member Rachel McCusker describes feeling overwhelmed.

“Teachers are underwater right now. Underwater. I worked, easily this weekend, easily 16 hours this weekend,” McCusker said.

“Dr. Salmon keeps saying she hopes we can open, but I don’t see the actual action,” said Cheryl Bost, MSEA President.

The state’s teachers union shared similar concerns about safety measures.

“They talk about all the guidance they have but, local superintendents are saying we need help to get these in place,” Bost said.

Prince George’s County, which has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths statewide, will stay with virtual instruction until February, to the frustration of some.

“Our children are suffering. I don’t know for what reason they’re just sort of crossing their arms and stomping their feet and saying, ‘No, we’re not going to,'” board member Vermelle Greene said.

Parents hold a rally in Harford County calling for schools to reopen.

The State Board Of Education also cleared the way for school districts to move up the winter sports season from February to December.

In Harford County, a group of parents held a rally hours after the board met to urge schools to reopen.

“My children were straight-A students and now my high schooler is failing almost every grade,” Samantha Foster said.

Parents said their children continue to suffer behind a screen.

“They are falling so far behind because they aren’t retaining any information online. They literally sit there,” parent Melissa Lynn said.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Kelsey Kushner

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