STRUGGLING WITH DIGITAL DIVIDE IN EDUCATION: Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) emphasized his support for legislation that would provide at least $4 billion in funding in the next coronavirus relief package to address the digital divide in K-12 education, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
BALT CO SURPRISES WITH PHASED EDUCATION PLAN BRINGING STUDENTS BACK TO CLASSROOMS: Baltimore County announced plans Thursday for limited in-person instruction by Nov. 13, a transition from the all virtual model, Lillian Reed and Liz Bowie report for the Sun. In-person instruction would start with the youngest learners in preschool and kindergarten and for students with disabilities.
- The announcement surprised the teachers’ union, school board members and the county executive, says John Lee for WYPR, who reports that teachers were “flabbergasted” by the news.
- Parents were also startled, reports Rielle Creighton for WBFF, interviewing one mother of a special needs 2nd grader who said students need to be face-to-face with teachers.
- Carroll County’s COVID-19 numbers are trending down but Carroll’s top health officials says they would need to keep dropping before schools could reopen for in-person learning, Bob Blubaugh reports for the Carroll County Times.
- In Garrett County, school officials are hopeful they can get all students back into the classroom four days a week by Nov. 9, Joseph Hauger reports for the Garrett County Republican.
- Many private schools have remained in-person and Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn will be temporarily returning to virtual learning Thursday and Friday after two students tested positive for the coronavirus, Jenny Fulginiti reports for WBAL TV.
- At the higher education level, Salisbury University intends to remain open despite more than 400 positive COVID-19 cases, Richard Pollitt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.
STATE PREPARING NEW UNEMPLOYMENT PORTAL, UNCOVER MASSIVE FRAUD SCHEME: State officials plan to test a new website for unemployment benefits before releasing it this weekend, after learning from April when a portal debuted and promptly crashed, Jean Marbella reports for the Sun. The agency has faced criticism that those filing for benefits can’t get through.
- Even lawmakers who have been advocating on behalf of constituents seeking unemployment benefits are complaining that their calls to top aides aren’t being returned, Bryan Sears reports for The Daily Record.
- Maryland officials have completed an investigation into a “massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise” that filed fraudulent unemployment claims totaling over $501 million, Madeleine O’Neill reports for USA Today.
STATE’S ATTORNEYS ON POLICE REFORM: Local prosecutors believe authority to prosecute police misconduct should remain with them as the legislature considers police reform proposals in the wake of national outcry at the death of George Floyd, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. Elected state’s attorneys spoke to a workgroup on reform.
- There were a few crossover suggestions between what prosecutors propose for police reform and what lawmakers are considering, including the creation of a police misconduct database, not unlike legislation proposed by Sen. Charles E. Sydnor III (D-Baltimore County), Hannah Gaskill reports for Maryland Matters. Sydnor’s bill is set to be heard at a rare interim bill hearing next week.
CITY SA WITHOUT BUDGET OVERSIGHT: City auditors don’t perform audits on the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Joy Lepola reports for WBFF. The office has a $48 million budget.
CONTRACTORS SUE OVER PURPLE LINE: The companies overseeing construction of Maryland’s Purple Line have sued the state for breach of contract, Katherine Shaver reports for the Post. The firms are seeking more than $100 million for the Maryland Transit Administration’s refusal to pay for delays and allegedly requiring the firms to “mask” delays in some project schedules.
CEO SENTENCED FOR GLENN BRIBE: “A Baltimore businessman and CEO was sentenced Thursday to 18 months in federal prison for paying about $40,000 in cash bribes to now-imprisoned state Del. Cheryl Glenn,” Tim Prudente reports for the Sun.
STANDING BEHIND THEIR HEALTH OFFICER: Montgomery County leaders are denouncing racist, derogatory and homophobic messages sent to the county’s health officer as he grapples with the COVID-19 crisis, Briana Adhikusuma reports for Bethesda Beat. “Hate has no place in our inclusive community,” the county executive and council stated after the Beat reported on the comments.
- Montgomery County is seeing a slight surge in COVID-19 cases, with 107 new cases overnight and one new confirmed death in the county, the staff of Bethesda Beat report.
CASES RISE IN CECIL: COVID-19 cases and deaths are on the rise in Cecil County, Jane Mellmyer reports in the Cecil Whig. The uptick comes after a quiet period.
STATE WON’T EASE CAPACITY RESTRICTIONS: Despite a letter from Washington County’s lawmakers and commissioners, the state will keep capacity limits on The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown, Mike Lewis reports for the Herald-Mail. The venue that can normally seat more than 1,200 people is limited to 100 people under coronavirus restrictions.
HELP FOR RENTERS: Anne Arundel County is launching “Operation Eviction Protection,” to help renters who need assistance taking advantage of new laws and programs intended to keep them in their homes through the coronavirus crisis, Sarah Kim reports for WYPR.
DEL. NICK MOSBY ON COVID: As the COVID-19 outbreak happened in April, State Del. Nick Mosby and members of the Legislative Black Caucus pressed the Hogan administration for data regarding the scourge of the pandemic broken down specifically along racial lines, as it became clear it was disproportionately infecting and killing Black and Brown people, Sean Yoes reports for the AFRO. Six months later, Mosby said Baltimore has fared better in the battle than expected.
SNIPER RIFLE PURCHASE BEING REVIEWED: Baltimore Brew delved into a proposed Baltimore City contract and found out it would cost nearly $10,000 each for the city to purchase new sniper rifles used in high-risk situations and practice preparing for those situations, Mark Reutter reports for the Brew. The contract has been withdrawn and the mayor plans to review it.
IMPROVEMENTS TO U.S. 15 SOUGHT: Highway improvements to U.S. 15 between Interstate 70 and Md. 26 remains Frederick County’s top transportation priority, County Executive Jan Gardner told Transportation Secretary Greg Slater and other state transportation officials, Ryan Marshall reports for the Frederick News-Post.
WICOMICO APPOINTMENT EXPECTED: The Wicomico County Council plans to meet in a special legislative session Friday to select its next county executive, after a previous appointment faced scrutiny and the applicant withdrew his name, Kelly Powers reports for the Salisbury Times. Del. Carl Anderton, R-38B, and Wicomico General Services Supervisor Lawrence Pate Matthews are up for the job.
- Wicomico’s recent travails raise a broader question, writes Lou Peck in Maryland Matters: What are the lessons or takeaways for other counties in the state with the county executive form of charter government? It’s a situation that already has confronted two other charter counties – Anne Arundel and Baltimore – who have had to fill vacant executive posts during the past decade.