Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced on Wednesday that public schools will remain closed for an additional four weeks to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. Salmon made the announcement at news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan at the State House in Annapolis. There are 423 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning. Four Marylanders have died from the virus.
“After lengthy discussions with health experts from around the state, I have made the decision along with the State Board of Education to extend the closure of all public schools in Maryland for an additional four weeks through April 24, 2020.
“We do not make this decision lightly; however, with the challenges facing our state and our country we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities and the communities at large.”
Salmon said the state is working with local school systems “to provide the continuity of learning to all of our students in every jurisdiction across the state of Maryland during this time.” Additional information “will be available in the coming days” as the state and local school systems “work collaboratively on a statewide plan that maintains equitable standards and expectations for students,” Salmon said.
Salmon said it is still unclear if schools will reopen in four weeks.
“While it is too early to definitively say exactly when schools will reopen, we will continue to reassess the situation as we move forward.”
Hogan echoed similar sentiments when asked to gauge the duration of school closure.
“Obviously none of us can say, ‘In four weeks everything is going to be great and it’s going to be safe for all the kids to go back to school.’ It’s somewhat aspirational … it would be wonderful if we get to the point where we’ve bent the curve and we can. But obviously we’re not going to send kids back if things are unsafe and we’re still climbing and people are getting infected.”
Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost praised the decision to extend school closures.
“This is a tough decision, but the right call for the safety of our students, educators, and state,” Bost, a Baltimore County elementary school teacher, said in a statement.
“The months ahead will be challenging, and we will work to make the best of them. It’s heartbreaking to know that so many children will miss out on field trips, art projects, athletics, performances, and the everyday enjoyment of being with friends and learning new things together. We know that virtual learning is less beneficial for students than in-person learning, and we need to do all we can to address equity issues for students without access to technology and for students entitled to special education services.
“We must make sure that food-insecure children receive meals and that all school employees, including hourly employees, continue to receive their pay so that they can support their families. Educators have stepped up since the first day schools were closed and will continue to do all we can to support our students as we work together to overcome this crisis,” Bost said.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Hogan announced that he has asked the White House for a presidential disaster declaration for Maryland, which, if approved, would authorize federal financial assistance for the state. Hogan said Maryland has received $4 million from the federal government to assist local communities in providing at-home meals for senior citizens. Hogan urged Congress to pass the $2 trillion stimulus bill that is currently being debated. Early this morning the White House reached a deal with Senate leaders to pass the legislation. The agreement came after two failed attempts to advance the measure in the upper chamber. A vote is expected sometime this evening.
Hogan urged Maryland residents who traveled to parts of the country that have been heavily affected by the virus to go into self-quarantine for two weeks. Hogan said he will chair a teleconference with the nation’s governors later this afternoon. He is chair of the National Governors Association.