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Gov. Hogan: Every Maryland county school system can safely reopen

Posted at 4:15 PM, Aug 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-29 13:15:24-04

ANNAPOLIS — Governor Hogan held a press conference to give an update on schools in Maryland.

He was joined by Maryland Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon and Maryland Department of Health Acting Deputy Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan.

Hogan stated every county school system is now fully authorized to safely reopen as a result of the state’s improved health metrics.

So far, 16 county school systems have developed plans which include some form of in-person instruction this fall.

Eight jurisdictions have not submitted reopening plans that bring any students back into the classrooms this calendar year.

The authority and decision making on safe openings rest with county boards of education, but their decisions will have be based on a new set of statewide metrics, which have been established by MD Dept. of Health
in collaboration with Maryland Public Schools.

Dr. Chan from also announced a new set of county-specific benchmarks to guide school reopening decisions, which are based on metrics that reflect the levels of community transmission, including test positivity and case rates.

Dr. Salmon said she is strongly encouraging local school systems to reevaluate their mode of instruction at the end of the first quarter.

Gov. Hogan and Dr. Salmon will visit school sites across the state in the coming weeks to observe systems that are bringing small groups of students back into a safe and educationally effective environment.

The Maryland teachers' union did not agree with the state's decision.

They said in a statement:

"The state abdicated responsibility for months for creating reopening standards & told districts to develop their own plans. Now they undercut hard decisions schools have made to keep students & educators safe days before the year begins. This is a recipe for chaos & confusion."

The following statement was issued by Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano:

"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."

County Executive Alsobrooks responded to the reopening:

“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.”

Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto today released the following statement:

“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 County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Darryl Williams issued the following statement:

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.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski issued the following statement:

“As County Executive and a former teacher, I want nothing more than to get all our kids back to the classroom as quickly as possible — especially our youngest learners and students with disabilities and special needs. But we can only do that when we know we can keep our students and educators safe.

Governor 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.

That’s not leadership. Maryland students and families deserve better.”