Bromwell to Hogan: Dorchester submitted, and will follow, school reopening plan

Screen shot/Dave Ryan
Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools Dave Bromwell defended local schools’ reopening plan Friday after Maryland Governor Larry Hogan criticized eight counties’ preparations on Thursday. Mr. Bromwell refuted some of the governor’s statements, saying Dorchester schools had submitted a reopening plan, and would continue to follow it.

CAMBRIDGE — Superintendent of Dorchester County Public Schools Dave Bromwell defended his organization’s reopening plan in a live, online presentation Friday. He was responding to criticism leveled by Gov. Larry Hogan during a press conference Thursday, when he authorized public schools to reopen with in-person instruction for the fall semester.

In part of the governor’s announcement, he said some school boards had not submitted reopening plans, as a map of the state was displayed highlighting eight counties, including Dorchester.
“I wanted to reach out to reassure you that Dorchester County Public Schools is continuing with our current reopening plan,” Mr. Bromwell said. “I want to clarify some miscommunication or some less-than-accurate information presented in the governor’s press conference.”

He said the county’s schools submitted their reopening plans on Aug. 12, prior to the state-required deadline. “We are continuing to follow that plan,” Mr. Bromwell said.

Hogan’s press conference
Gov. Hogan was joined Thursday by Acting Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health Dr. Jinlese Chan and State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon.
“Today I am announcing that, as a result of our improved health metrics, every single county school system in the State of Maryland is now fully authorized to begin safely reopening,” he said.

On March 12, Maryland and Ohio were the first two states in the nation to close all schools statewide. Since then, “Our mitigation efforts have been extremely successful,” Gov. Hogan said.
He noted that Maryland’s positivity rate has fallen 87%, to 3.3%, and hospitalizations are down 73%. Health and economic metrics in the state are better than the national average, he said.
“In order for us to keep moving forward, and to keep making progress, it is absolutely critical that we begin the process of getting our children safely and gradually back in the classrooms,” Gov. Hogan said.

“Perhaps it was easier for a local school board to simply say they do not want to open and to say that they have developed no plans to safely reopen or to bring any children back in for any in-classroom instruction for the rest of the calendar year,” Gov. Hogan said. “But that is not acceptable, it is not in line with our health metrics or with state policy and it is not the right thing for our Maryland children.”

Dr. Chan said her department had reviewed metrics from other sources around the nation as the Maryland Department of Health put together its own guidelines. “We are now at levels where we believe that all schools can move forward with some level of in-person learning.”
Dr. Salmon acknowledged that not having students in classrooms has had widespread impacts on many facets of daily life. “It is our responsibility as a society and a state to make sure that school buildings open safely for in-person instruction as soon as possible.”

“We’re not going to order them to go back and open schools,” Gov. Hogan said. “But we’re going to strongly suggest that since the numbers have dramatically improved…we’re going to provide incentives to get the kids to return to classrooms.”

Bromwell’s response
Dorchester’s Superintendent Dave Bromwell addressed the public in a Facebook Live speech at noon on Friday. He said the county’s plan had been presented to the public online, and in summarized reports published by various sources.
“Our plan does include bringing students into our schools,” Mr. Bromwell said, noting that he was purposely standing in front of the Dorchester Career & Technology Center, which had been specified in the Aug. 12 plan as a site where in-person instruction would take place.
The Pathways Program, a special education group, will also meet in that building.

“Dorchester County Public Schools will continue to work with the state’s listed phases of reopening, recommendations by our local health department and CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines to ensure the safety of our employees and students,” Mr. Bromwell said. “As these experts confirm our transitions are safe, and meet health and safety standards, we will notify our community and bring in small groups of students in phases, as we have stated all along.”

He continued, “The Dorchester County Public School Reopening Plan is what we worked hard to prepare, presented to stakeholders, submitted to the Maryland State Department of Education, and will continue to follow, as we will do all we can to educate and maintain the health and safety of the staff and students of Dorchester County, as well as support our community. We are the Dorchester County Public School family, we are one, and we will continue to do what is best and safe for the Dorchester County community.”

Efforts have been underway locally to provide guidelines and equipment needed for online instruction. Schools have begun distribution of digital tablets for students to use for online classes.