Hogan, Salmon: Reopen schools by March 1

Submitted photo/MDDE Washington County Public Schools Communications Officer Erin Anderson received a vaccination from a Maryland National Guardsman during Governor Larry Hogan’s press conference on Jan. 21. Included in the event, which focused on education, were vaccinations of school employees and officials from around the state. Representing the Eastern Shore were Easton Middle School Teacher Annie Mewborn, Easton Elementary ESOL Tutor Sindy Reyes, and from Wicomico High School, Principal Ron Greene and Counselor Danielle Cunningham.

ANNAPOLIS — Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon on Jan. 21 called for all Maryland school systems to return to hybrid instruction — a combination of in-person and virtual learning — no later than March 1.

Governor Hogan said, “Our children simply cannot afford any more endless roadblocks, or any more moving of the goalposts. The time has come to get all of our kids back in the classroom, and to open the schools.” Earlier on Jan. 21, President Biden signed an executive order to support students and safely reopen schools. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, has said, “the default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recently stated, “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.”

Among the points emphasized by state officials were:

• School Reopening Protocols — State health officials are providing school systems with additional school reopening school guidance and educational design options based on scientific evidence, recent studies on the impact of school reopening on community transmission, and the effects of school closures on children and learning. State health officials recommend daily in-person learning for students with disabilities and special learning needs, phased daily in-person learning for elementary students, and hybrid learning for secondary students.

• Letter to Union Leadership — Governor Hogan and Dr. Salmon sent a letter to Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost urging her to aid the effort to get students back into classrooms.

• $780 Million in Additional Funding — Dr. Salmon recently announced another $780 million in federal relief for school systems to address the effects of the pandemic, and a total of more than $1.2 billion has been made available. In addition, the governor’s FY 2022 recovery budget provides a record $7.5 billion for K-12 funding. • Staff Prioritized for Vaccines — Maryland has prioritized teachers and education staff to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Following the press conference, Dr. Salmon and education staff from across the state received their COVID-19 vaccinations. • PPE and Testing — The state has provided school systems with 2 million masks and 200,000 face shields, as well as hand sanitizer, gloves, and gowns.

• Data Dashboard — Epidemiologists from the Maryland Department of Health have provided a dashboard that tracks outbreak-associated cases in schools.