All Maryland public school buildings will remain closed for another four weeks, through at least April 24.
The decision was announced by Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon at a press conference Wednesday with Gov. Larry Hogan.
Salmon said the decision was made after speaking with health experts.
All Maryland public schools are expected to begin online instruction on Monday, March 30. Salmon said she is working with all Maryland school jurisdictions to make sure they are prepared for continuity of learning.
Frederick County Public Schools began training teachers this week to provide online instruction to students in case the school closure was extended.
Frederick County Superintendent Terry Alban told The News-Post when the closure began that the county had been preparing for online instruction even before the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s not like all of a sudden in the last three weeks we said, ‘Oh, we got to start developing things.’ We have things developed. ... We just have not been able to train all 3,000 teachers,” Alban said. “I still think Frederick County is leading the state in being ready to actually deliver true course material in an online vehicle.”
Salmon said one of her biggest priorities moving forward over the next four weeks is to make sure there is a level of equity across the state.
"What are the standards we really expect to have to be the baseline that everybody gets and then if other districts are able, because they can do more for remote, distance learning, they can add onto that," Salmon said. "But we want to make sure every student has the basics going forward these next four weeks."
When asked whether these days of closure will be counted as full school days, Salmon said that right now, she and the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) are focused on getting instruction going.
"We're going to look at all kinds of creative solutions going forward. We may look at an extended year," Salmon said. "We're trying to get geared up to do the continuity of learning piece first, and then we'll have some time once we get that down and get to understand how effective that is. Then we can start planning for other kinds of things that we need to, going forward."
Salmon also spoke about child care, an issue that many parents and families are grappling with while schools are closed.
At this time, child care and day care centers may remain open. MSDE has also identified space for more than 1,200 children across the state who may need child care if their parents are considered essential employees.
These spaces include local YMCAs, public libraries and the Maryland School for the Deaf.
Salmon said they are hoping to increase that capacity in the coming days.
Parents who are essential workers in the health care or emergency response industries and who are dealing directly with the coronavirus pandemic may register for child care through the state's new free referral hotline called LOCATE by dialing 877-261-0060.
Salmon said that it is too early to say when schools will reopen, but that she and MSDE will monitor and assess the situation daily.
"We're not going to send back kids to schools if things get worse. ... I think the decision right now is spend these four weeks trying to figure it out," he said. "We really don’t know how bad it’s going to get and how long it’s going to last. ... What we do know is, it’s not going to be over in a matter of days or weeks."
The state has more than 400 cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday morning, eight of them in Frederick County.
On Monday, the governor announced actions to close all non-essential businesses until further notice, and said the state would take more aggressive action to enact social distancing.