Maryland Governor Larry Hogan is calling on every school system in the state to make an immediate effort to reopen in some form by March 1.

He made the announcement Thursday afternoon along with state Superintendent Karen Salmon.

"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 said. "This really isn't controversial. The science is clear, nearly everyone wants to get our kids back into school."

Hogan said the effects of keeping students at home are far too damaging. He said the estimated cumulative learning loss for students could equate to five to nine months. Students of color and those who are low-income and disadvantaged are disproportionately impacted, Hogan added.

"That [learning loss] is unacceptable. It is simply unconscionable. I understand in earlier stages of the pandemic that this was a very difficult decision for county school boards to make, but we know so much more now than we did back then, and there can no longer be any debate at all," Hogan said.

Salmon said it is important to reopen schools not just for the academic benefits but because schools support students in other ways.

"In addition to educational instruction, schools support the development of social-emotional skills throughout interactions with teachers and peers, they establish a safe environment for learning and often address nutritional, behavioral health and other special needs, as well as facilitate physical activity," she said.

Jinlene Chan, deputy state health secretary for public health, joined Hogan and Salmon at the press conference and presented two options for the safe reopening of schools.

Under option one, which is recommended by the Maryland Department of Health, school systems would enact daily in-person learning for students who have disabilities, special learning needs, those who have difficulty learning remotely and students who are on Career and Technical Education paths. Elementary schools under option one would either phase in daily, in-person learning or hybrid learning if health and safety requirements are unable to be met. Secondary schools would begin with hybrid learning and would phase in daily in-person learning if the health and safety requirements are able to be implemented.

Under option two, school systems would implement daily in-person learning for students with unique educational needs. Elementary schools would have phased-in or hybrid learning and secondary schools would either have remote learning or a phase in of hybrid learning.

Regardless of how school systems choose to reopen, families will continue to have the option to keep their children at home and access virtual learning.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Terry Alban said she appreciates the guidance on reopening has been updated. When asked how it will impact FCPS' current plans to begin a hybrid model on Feb. 16, Alban said she thinks FCPS is on track.

"I need to see the specific guidance to know if we need to modify our plans. Superintendents meet with the Maryland Department of Health and [Maryland State Department of Education] [Friday] morning, so I hope to learn more," Alban said.

During Thursday's press conference, Chan also talked about research that has emerged from other states and counties on the spread of COVID-19 within schools.

"There is little evidence that school reopening is a major driver of overall community spread," she said. "Studies have indicated that transmission in schools is relatively uncommon when there is effective implementation of the mitigation strategies including distancing, use of masks and cleaning."

She added that children under the age of 10 are less likely to spread the virus and there have been limited outbreaks in schools in Maryland; moreover, the schools that have seen multiple outbreaks have been found to not be in compliance with the recommended mitigation strategies.

Chan encouraged all educators to get vaccinated when doses become available and said decisions surrounding schools reopening should not be based on the availability of vaccines or the level of vaccination among educators. Teachers and school-based staff have been placed in Group 1B of the state's vaccination plan. Frederick County is currently vaccinating Group 1A and those over the age of 75. It is unclear when the rollout of vaccines will begin for teachers and others who are in Group 1B and under the age of 75.

Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teacher's Association, said she found the governor's announcement to be confusing and contradictory.

"In one breath ... all three of them said it's very important that as many educators as possible get the vaccine ... it's an important step to stop community spread. And then in the next breath they say but it doesn't matter if you get it before you go into an enclosed space with lots of people. That's a very mixed message," she said.

Both Hogan and Salmon implored teachers' unions to work with them to safely reopen schools. 

"I know that the vast majority of teachers want to desperately get back to school with their students and their colleagues and I want to make it clear to the teacher's union that we fully expect teachers to make every effort to return to the classroom," Hogan said.

The governor pointed out that other school districts across the country have threatened to either hold teachers' pay or revoke teaching licenses if they do not return to school.

"We do not want to have to take such actions here in Maryland, but if school systems do not immediately begin a good faith effort to return to the classrooms we will explore every legal avenue at our disposal," Hogan said.

Dirks did not appreciate the governor's remarks. 

"It's very disappointing that the governor would use his bully pulpit to make threats against educators who have been working over and above to make sure they're meeting the needs of students the best they can in an environment that before this year they had never taught in," she said. "While the governor was speaking I was getting text messages from educators feeling very disheartened and demoralized that their governor doesn't seem to acknowledge all the work that they've been putting in on behalf of their students."

The ultimate decision to reopen schools rests with each county's board of education, which Hogan pointed out. The governor cannot order schools to reopen, but he said he will do everything within his legal power to get students back into classrooms.

The Frederick County Board of Education in November voted to allow Alban to make decisions regarding the reopening of schools.

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill

(29) comments

jth7100

Let's do what Daddy Warbucks say before his neck eats his head.

jth7100

That is so true.

PurplePickles aka L&M

Then Hogan should close the bars and restaurants...like right now. The governor cannot order schools to reopen, but he said he will do everything within his legal power to get students back into classrooms, it is within his legal powers to close bars and restaurants, but will he do it?

"There is little evidence that school reopening is a major driver of overall community spread," she said. "Studies have indicated that transmission in schools is relatively uncommon when there is effective implementation of the mitigation strategies including distancing, use of masks and cleaning."...BUT there is a ton of evidence that bars and restaurants are super spreaders so I'm calling on Hogan to close bars and restaurants etc...so our kids can go back to school in March.

Put your money where your mouth is Gov. Hogan and value the children in Maryland not your back pocket.....

huskycats

It will still take several weeks after the second shot for you to be fully covered.

bosco

Both Karen Salmon and Theresa Alban have PhDs.

Why is the FNP not giving them the same respect as the Reverend King, to whom the FNP referred to as Doctor King.

None of these three are medical doctors, so either use the term doctor for ALL with a doctorate degree, or restrict it to mediical doctors only.

It's all about equity.

Greg F

There you go again, bonzo....a doctorate in whatever gives you that title, but you seem like the typical RRR that want to diminish doctorates of one type over another. Yay...Ben Carson is an MD....yet he's a moron in everything outside surgery. Having a PhD is not a sign you are smart or better than anyone. Plenty of smart people have no degrees at all. You don't feel equal about anyone, and that shows by all your past racist posts. A doctorate in physics is as valuable as a medical doctorate depending on what field you go into. So is a doctorate in education if that's your specialty and field. It's in essence a degree as to the specific specialty. I do say that the school board seems to disregard degreed folks, especially those in science.

bosco

Doctor Fed Up Greg F, thanks for showing your hypocrisy by weakly playing the race card - the only card in your deck - and for arguing for both sides, and for assuming I am trying to diminish one doctorate degree in favor of another. In your rush to post you failed to grasp that I am calling for equitable recognition of all doctoral degrees for all OR limit the title of Doctor to those with medical degrees.

Greg F

Hardy har har Bonzo...what you are suggesting goes against the idea of a doctoral degree and what it means. We know secretly you hate DR. Jill Biden and her title too...the other underlying point you didn’t mention along with everything else I said already. I don’t play a race card, which is the tactic you would love to have me say, nor would I. Trump and you continue to play it against minorities constantly. It is what it is and we all understand what a doctor title means in a field except you playing dumb. Maybe you aren’t playing...but are?

Comment deleted.
Hayduke2

May I suggest that you quit responding to the nonsense Bosco posts. His whole persona is to elicit responses so he feels relevant. Loves to push those buttons.

bosco

The button is still connected or you wouldn't jump so much. Derisive comments and attempts to cancel but no usefull dialogue about equity for all doctoral degrees? Typical.

Greg F

There’s the other right wing button...calling their bs attempts to play footsie with truth as canceling something.

vodalone

If you vaccinate all the teachers and staff by March 1 which is possible, no reason this plan shouldn't go ahead.

Greg F

Great Vody....you'll have kids catch it from other kids and take it home to grandma and grampa or someone in the family with a comorbidity and promptly kill them. That's not reason enough? The science is clear, and the fact that this is morphing into an even more contagious virus (with some of them seeming to negate immunity..like the African variant)...this is not the time to go back to normal in any way, shape or form.

vodalone

Stop being so hysterical there Greggy, this virus will never be eradicated from the population, medical experts have pretty much concluded this. Society has to go on, risks have to be weighed and taken, and the most important aspect at this point has to be to ensure our kids get a proper education so a productive society can actually continue. Sorry, but I'll listen to advice from two doctors about my kids before I listen to advice from the FNP Comment section hysterics queen Greg F.

Greg F

Not yet...while it is fully out of control.

Greg F

There are sh1tty doctors and dumb ones. Look at Ben Carson.

vodalone

Greg and that’s fine, if you’re not comfortable sending your kid back to school you don’t have to, that’s why it’s a hybrid program.

gardenwhimsey

In a couple of weeks of the children going back to in-person school there will be a surge in Covid cases in Maryland which will likely be traced back to school kids. It will not be the kids' fault but it will be traced back to the school decision. The parents should have a choice of keeping their children home for virtual schooling or place them in danger of exposure to the virus.

fnpreader123

Baloney. Plenty of schools are open, as are daycares, sports, horse back riding, karate, church, etc. Stop being such a ninny. Unfortunately looks like this is a new addition to the sicknesses floating around permanently, time to adapt.

Greg F

Yes reader...and we are seeing record cases too simultaneously. Duh.

Big Easy

Imagine that, Trump is out of office and "the science becomes perfectly clear" ... Kids are most likely a great deal more behind than the 5 to 9 months they say.

Politicians are horribly vile indiviudals that use any means at all to drive their agenda and ideals. Shameful that they think people are that dumb ... Sadly, it seems many of us are.

Greg F

Easy...Trump muddied the science to the nth degree. Republicans under Trump's thumb and excessively stupid ideals were silenced or threatened and now are speaking up. That said, the science is clear. This is getting WORSE, not better, with more contagious versions out now than ever. Hogan is plain wrong on this...and some of us work with those science folks.

Hayduke2

Sorry, but not sure what Trump being out of office has to do with this. He had no accountabliity, issued no guidance on how or when to open schools, said it was the state's problem, played golf and pushed the fake election steal ideas and basically failed to act as a leader. Do I agree with this decision, nope! At lease not until we have teachers receiving the vaccine and able to work in a confined space, with poor air movement, etc. Take a look at NC as several districts there have had to go back to all virtual because they attempted this.

dabittle

"Missy Dirks, president of the Frederick County Teacher's Association, said she found the governor's announcement to be confusing and contradictory." Let me clear it up for her...GO BACK TO SCHOOL AND GET TO WORK!

Dwasserba

They're at work.

Greg F

I'm working, and my kid is doing fine virtually. Going back is NOT an option here and the hosed up roll-out of vaccines by Trumpydope is not helping anything.

Izzy

Your comment unfortunately demonstrates the lack of respect teachers have dealt with for decades. Take a moment to educate yourself on what teachers have been doing since last March.

Greg F

👍Izzy!

Hayduke2

Let me say this dabittle - Stay in your own lane!

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. No vulgar, racist, sexist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, not personal attacks or ad hominem criticisms.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Be civil. Don't threaten. Don't lie. Don't bait. Don't degrade others.
No trolling. Stay on topic.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
No deceptive names. Apparently misleading usernames are not allowed.
Say it once. No repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link for abusive posts.

Thank you for reading!

Already a member?

Login Now
Click Here!

Currently a News-Post subscriber?

Activate your membership at no additional charge.
Click Here!

Need more information?

Learn about the benefits of membership.
Click Here!

Ready to join?

Choose the membership plan that fits your needs.
Click Here!