Hogan: Public schools can reopen

Screen shot/Dave Ryan
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, at right, announced on Thursday afternoon authorization for public schools to reopen with in-person instruction for the fall semester.

ANNAPOLIS — In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan authorized public schools to reopen with in-person instruction for the fall semester. He was joined at the conference 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,” the governor 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.”
Of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions — 23 counties and Baltimore City — 16 have submitted reopening plans to the state. Dorchester County is one of the eight which have not.

Great efforts have been made in Dorchester, however, to provide plans and equipment needed for online instruction. Schools have begun distribution of digital tablets for students to use for online classes.
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.”
The governor said his announcement was only authorization.
“We’re not going to order them to go back and open schools,” he 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.”

The Dorchester County Board of Education did not immediately respond to a request for information. The Banner will update this story as more details are made available.

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