Brian Witte/AP Photo
Gov. Larry Hogan and Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon say they will explore "every legal avenue" to get public schools to comply with getting students back to some in-person learning.
Brian Witte/AP Photo
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is calling on all public school systems to open for some in-person learning by March 1."A growing consensus has emerged, both here in Maryland and across the country, that there is no public health reason for county school boards to keep students out of schools," Hogan told reporters Thursday.
Hogan and the state's departments of health and education say school systems should consider one of two options for in-person learning. The first would be daily in-person learning for students who have disabilities, special learning needs, difficulties learning remotely, or are in career or technology paths. The second option would include in-person learning for "those with unique educational needs" and phased-in hybrid learning for elementary school with remote learning for secondary.
In all cases, parents would still have the option to keep their children at home for remote learning during the pandemic.
Hogan can't require public schools to reopen. But he said if schools choose not to comply, "we will explore every legal avenue at our disposal." Montgomery and Prince George's county schools are among those that have yet to reopen for in-person learning.
"Our children simply cannot afford anymore endless roadblocks or moving of the goal posts," Hogan said.
Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon noted that failing grades throughout the state were much higher during the pandemic than in previous years. They added that there has been a disproportionate impact on students of color, students with disabilities, and students from low income families.
"It is estimated that by the end of this upcoming school year, the cumulative learning loss for students could equate to five to nine months on average with the losses disproportionately impacting students of color and low-income students," Salmon wrote in a letter to the state's teachers union.
Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland's acting deputy secretary for public health, said that studies show the virus' spread within schools is relatively low if schools abide by proper mitigation and safety measures.
"There is also some evidence that children younger than 10 are less likely to spread the virus," Chan said.
Chan added that reopening schools should not depend on COVID-19 vaccine accessibility. She also cited the American Academy of Pediatrics' President Lee Savio Beers, who said earlier this month that "children absolutely need to return to in-school learning for their healthy development and well-being, and so safety in schools and in the community must be a priority."
The departments of health and education have provided guidance for schools to reopen safely. Epidemiologists with the health department have also created a dashboard of COVID-19 outbreaks associated with schools.
Prince George's County CEO of Schools Monica Goldson wrote in a letter to parents Wednesday that increased vaccination efforts means it's likely students could return to classrooms in the spring. The county has the highest number of positive coronavirus cases in the state.
Montgomery County's Board of Education voted earlier this month to delay bringing small groups of students back for in-person learning until March 15.
This story is from DCist.com, the local news website of WAMU.