Governor calls for school reopening to begin by March 1
January 25, 2021
Last Thursday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon called for the shift to hybrid instruction of all local school systems in Maryland to begin no later than March 1.
The bi-partisan decision was influenced by the fall of student grades during virtual learning. Additionally, some data from case studies around the United States indicate that school reopenings do not contribute majorly to an increase in COVID-19 transmission.
Studies estimate that by the end of this school year, the cumulative learning loss could equate to at least 5 to 9 months on average. This loss is even more austere for low income students and students who have special education needs. Other studies show growing signs of depression and anxiety with continued pandemic isolation.
“Our children simply cannot afford any more moving of the goalposts. I will do everything I possibly can do within the law to push to get all of Maryland’s children back into the classrooms, and call on every leader in the state to join us in making this an immediate priority,” Hogan tweeted.
Prominent health officials, including former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Anthony Fauci, support the prioritization of a safe, effective return to in-person learning for students, teachers, and staff. On Jan. 21, President Biden signed an executive order that supported a safe reopening of schools.
Maryland health metrics have shown signs of plateauing in part to the over 370,000 thousands of vaccine doses that have already been administered. As of Jan. 25, the positivity rate is at 6.84 percent, dropping by approximately 12 percent in the past month. Over the past week, there was an average of 2,145 cases per day, a decrease of 30 percent from the average two weeks earlier.
On Jan. 12, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to prolong initial school reopenings to March 15, two weeks after Hogan’s deadline, by a vote of 7-1. Although Hogan has pushed toward the reopening of all local school systems, he does not have the authority to mandate the reopening of schools. “I will do everything possible within the law to push to get all of Maryland children back into classrooms,” Hogan said at Thursday’s conference.
In a press release made last week in response to Hogan’s announcement, MCPS officials expressed their appreciation towards the effort put into facilitating the reopening of schools. However, the statement also communicated concern regarding the urgency to reopen schools, stating that the pandemic is still at its climax. MCPS states that it would continue to “collaborate closely with state and county health officials and leaders” to ensure that the academic and health needs of students and staff are met.
A record $7.5 billion has been invested in Hogan’s 2022 recovery budget for K-12 education. Federal relief for Maryland school systems will be provided to alleviate negative effects brought by the pandemic. “Every school system in Maryland will see increased funding by the state,” Hogan said at last Thursday’s press conference.
“More than $1.2B has been made available to help schools address the impacts of the pandemic, and while no school system has indicated that they need any additional PPE to safely reopen, we have provided millions of units of PPE and made COVID-19 tests abundantly available,” Hogan tweeted.
To prepare for the return to in-person instruction, more than 2 million masks and significant quantities of personal protective equipment have been made available to every county in the state. The vaccination of teachers and staff is a top priority of the state, as educators have been moved up to be eligible sooner than originally planned. However, a coronavirus vaccine for children is still in the early stages of development.
The Board will meet again this Thursday to discuss reopening plans.