ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Larry Hogan, joined by State Superintendent Karen Salmon, gave an update on schools and provided a COVID-19 update.
Schools have until August 14 to finalize their plans. The state will allow flexibility to local school systems, in consultation with local health departments, to make decisions on reopening.
The state will set guardrails for school systems. First, they must adhere to CDC guidelines. Face coverings will be required for all students and staff.
Second, schools must follow state health protocols for responding to any confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Third, schools must meet a series of benchmarks for reopening, including:
When it came to COVID-19 in Maryland, Hogan said that while states across the nation and throughout the region have seen troubling spikes in their infection rates, Maryland’s positivity rate has continued to decline.
The statewide rate is now 4.49%, an 83% decline since its peak on April 17.
The gap between the positivity rates among Marylanders under 35 and Marylanders 35 and over is as big as it has ever been -- 3.5% versus 6.57%
Hogan reiterated his Safer At Home guidance. He said outside activity is still much safer than inside activity, employers should continue encouraging telework, and avoid public transportation unless necessary.
Hogan also addressed the general election in November. He said they are encouraging everyone to vote by mail.
Gov. Hogan is urging the State Board of Elections to mail applications for ballots as soon as possible.
Maryland State Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon said local school systems still have flexibility to determine how they will open and which groups of students and staff are able to handle in-person classes.
9 school districts have made the decision to start out online.
She says the state is giving “guardrails”, following CDC guidelines on hand washing, distancing, and face coverings.
The schools must have a protocol in place for a potential outbreak, and set benchmarks to identify learning gaps.
Districts must also follow curriculum and ensure safe transportation.
“To address the digital divide $100 million is dedicated to equipping students with up to date devices and connectivity,” Salmon said. “Another $100 million is invested in tutoring and learning programs to address learning loss due to time away from direct instruction and teacher intervention.”
When it comes to small business, the Governor said they do not intend to put anyone out of work.
He said the regulations for restaurants that are in places are working.
“I want to commend Montgomery County for cracking down on a few businesses that were fragrantly violating those health orders,” he said. “This issue is not a problem with our current regulations in place it’s more a matter of a lack of compliance on the part of a few.”
Hogan said New York and New Jersey made a mistake adding Maryland to their travel advisory.
“New York I guess has different measures that they are looking at. It’s not part of the CDC guidelines it’s not something that’s part of our plan here in Maryland. Since we’ve been trending in a great direction for 96 straight days or whatever numbers I gave earlier. I don’t know what that was about.”
Something the Governor wanted to drive home, is that while positive cases continue to rise ,most counties are flat with death rates.
Maryland State Education Association President and Baltimore County elementary school teacher Cheryl Bost responds to the update from Gov. Larry Hogan and State School Superintendent Karen Salmon concerning the next school year:
“Many local systems in Maryland have already opted to begin the year with virtual learning, and we urge more systems to do the same for at least the first semester. Virtual learning is not a perfect solution, but it’s the safest and focusing on just one mode of education enables educators to direct their total attention to making it more rigorous and equitable. We must do all we can to get the virus under control so that we can safely return to in-person learning—which we know is most beneficial to our students over the long-term. We also know that the success of this school year and our ability to reopen schools as soon as possible will depend on a commitment to funding from federal, state, and local levels that we have not seen to date. Educators are committed to doing all that we can to make virtual learning as successful as possible, and eagerly await the day when public health conditions allow us to return to our schools and classrooms with our students for the in-person learning that we know is better for children."