Maryland State School Superintendent Karen Salmon said on Friday that the closure of public schools will be extended to May 15 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Salmon spoke at a news conference with Gov. Larry Hogan that was held outside the State House in Annapolis. Last month Salmons said that schools would be closed until April 25 at the earliest.
“After extensive consultation with the State Board of Education and leading public health experts in the state, I am extending the closure of schools through May 15. With regard to the remainder of the school year and the summer, we will use this time to examine every option and continue to develop a long-term plan for recovery.
“In a very short timeframe, school systems have continued to increase their digital presence and capabilities to provide learning opportunities to all students. All school systems must submit these continuity of learning plans to Maryland State Department of Education for review.”
Salmon described the criteria for the plans.
“These plans include an overall description of how systems will deliver continuity of learning to all their students, a description of the roles and responsibilities of district staff, school administrators, teachers, instructional assistants, students and parents-a sample teacher and sample student day-a plan of accountability of how systems will monitor and assess student performance-and a description of how school systems plan to address equity for special education students, English learners, students with academic needs and homeless students.”
Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost praised Salmon’s decision to extend school closures.
“This is the right decision for the safety and health of our students, educators, and state,” Bost, a Baltimore County elementary school teacher, said in a statement.
“Educators will continue to do our best for our students as together we navigate the challenges of crisis distance learning. We know that this type of learning is no substitute for in-person learning, and we will need to be thoughtful and serious about how we help students recover from this crisis. Recent weeks have magnified existing inequities — whether of technology access, food security, or otherwise — that our students face every day and that challenge their ability to succeed in school.
“We must come together to address these issues over the short- and long-term. Everyone’s safety is paramount, but we remain hopeful that educators and students will be able to spend time together again at their schools before this school year is over,” Bost said.
During Friday’s news conference Hogan said his administration is reviewing
“guidelines and recommendations” from the federal government aimed at gradually reopening the country. President Donald Trump and members of the White House coronavirus response team relayed the guidance at a news conference on Thursday evening. One of the requirements under the three=phase plan is that states demonstrate a two-week downward trend in positive COVID-19 cases before any restrictions are lifted.
Hogan said that Maryland is on the road to recovery but cautioned that now is not the time to ease restrictions. He said, “significant progress” has been made on each of the four criteria his administration has set as needed to be met in order for the state to reopen. Early next week there will be an update on that progress and later next week a roadmap to recovery will be introduced, he said. Hogan reminded Marylanders that Saturday at 7 a.m. an executive order that requires residents to wear masks or face coverings in retail establishments and on public transportation will go into effect.
Hogan pushed back against those who have said the order violates their rights.
“This isn’t just about your rights or protecting yourself. It’s about protecting your neighbors.”
Hogan was asked about protests by people who want to reopen the economy now.
“I completely understand why people are anxious to get things going. I want to get our economy back and get things opened up as quickly as possible — just as much as anybody does. But we’re also gonna have to do that in a safe manner.”
Two groups have planned a peaceful rally for noon on Saturday in Annapolis to protest against lockdown restrictions continuing beyond May 1. ReOpen Maryland and Marylanders Against Excessive Quarantine say the governor’s lockdown violates their civil rights.
“Government mandating sick people to stay home is called quarantine. However, the government mandating healthy citizens to stay home, forcing businesses and churches to close is called tyranny,” ReOpen Maryland said in a joint statement with Marylanders Against Excessive Quarantine that was released on Friday. “Business owners are being forced to layoff [sic] employees while the unemployment system is failing those laid off as the economy free falls.”
ReOpen Maryland is calling for the state to reopen its economy on May 1 for healthy citizens.
“It is not sustainable to continue this lockdown as the economic and societal consequences will be irreversible,” ReOpen said in the statement.
People with comprised immune systems should not have to return to work if they do not feel comfortable, the group said.
There are 11,572 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Friday morning, according to the state’s Department of Health, while 425 people in Maryland have died from the virus.