ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — As Maryland’s covid numbers continue to improve, many schools now have to make up for the lost time.

About 400,000 Maryland students have not been present in a classroom since the beginning of the pandemic.

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“It does cause me continued concern what school will be like for many of the students who have not experienced it for a year-and-a-half,” said Karen Salmon, Maryland State Superintendent, at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Superintendent Salmon said the majority of Maryland schools have indicated a five-day return to school in September. However, some districts like Baltimore County are offering a blended virtual program for students who are not ready to return to the classroom full-time.

“Virtual learning is kind of like a Cinderella slipper,” said Jean Halle, the Vice President of the Maryland State Board of Education. “It doesn’t fit most people but for the person that it fits, it’s a great life,” she said.

Research presented before the Board Tuesday showed that more students fell behind in the virtual learning environment.

“This pandemic exposed many deficits for our families and our schools,” said Cheryl Bost, a Baltimore County educator.

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According to data and research from the State Board of Ed, student learning was significantly lower while virtual. One estimate showed that it dropped anywhere between 50 and 90 percent and over the course of the year, the achievement gap widened.

Teachers who worked remotely reported less instructional time and said that assignment completion and student absences also increased significantly.

School systems with higher percentages of fully virtual students tended to have lower attendance rates and systems with lower attendance rates also had lower passing rates.

“We had a good experience virtually but I spent the entire school year listening to a second grade zoom call for 5 1/2 hours every day,” said Anna Benshoof, whose son is a student in Baltimore City Schools.

While her son flourished learning from home, Benshoof said many of his classmates did not. “I saw a lot of kids in my son’s class struggling virtually and it was breaking my heart watching it.”

The State Board of Education said it’s allocating $321 million to help with the lost instruction time, including extended year and extended day programs and tutoring during Tuesday’s meeting.

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They said they will set aside an additional $25 million to help students impacted by trauma and those with behavioral issues.

Rachel Menitoff