State plan being developed for continuation of learning opportunities for students
(March 27, 2020) Maryland public schools, including those in Worcester County, will remained closed for another four weeks, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced on Wednesday.
During a COVID-19 update meeting held by Gov. Larry Hogan, Salmon declared schools will remain closed until Friday, April 24, and daycare options would remain open for families with essential worker employees who require the service.
“We do not make this decision lightly, however, with the challenges 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. “I’m working in concert with all local school system superintendents, including multiple calls per week, in order to provide the continuity of learning to all of our students in every jurisdiction across the state of Maryland during this time.”
Salmon also said the department is working on providing education services during the extended closures.
“We are already working very closely with every school system to address issues affecting their ability to provide educational services to all of their students,” Salmon said. “It also should be noted that we will be diligent in providing educational services to our students with disabilities.
“Local superintendents have provided me with their plan for the continuity of learning during this additional closure period,” she continued. “My staff at the Maryland Department of Education has been reviewing the plans and determining what supports and resources the state can provide where needed.”
More information will be made available in the coming days regarding a statewide plan, she added. Salmon said her department will reassess the situation following the end of the next four weeks of school closures.
In addition, childcare and daycare facilities will remain open primarily for children of essential workers such as pharmacists, food and agricultural workers, healthcare employees, communications, bank employees and energy sector workers.
Hogan approved of the decision, and acknowledged that the decision was not easily made.
“I just want to take a moment to speak directly to Maryland’s parents, teachers and students,” he said. “I know how incredibly difficult and confusing this last couple of weeks have been for you. Teachers want to know when they’ll be able to get back to their lessons and when they’ll see their students again … and the students want to know when they’ll get back to their normal lives and when they can see their friends and classmates again.
“There’s a lot of confusion and fear and anxiety and uncertainty right now,” he continued. “It’s challenging, [but] I just want all of you to know that there’s nothing more important to us than your health and well-being and education. I want you to know a tremendous group of people – your superintendents, people in your local school system and the State Board of Education – a whole lot of people working across the state … I want to thank them for all their efforts [because] we’re all in this together and we will get through this together.”
The Worcester County Board of Education could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Lou Taylor sent a message out to parents, teachers and students regarding the announcement late Wednesday night.
“We know that this news is disappointing to our students, staff and faculty who have been anxious to get back to the normalcy of everyday life, but we wholeheartedly agree that keeping our students, staff, and the families of Worcester County safe and healthy must be the priority at this time,” Taylor said. “I want to reassure you that our school system leaders have been hard at work to prepare in the case of a continued closure.”
For instance, Taylor was proud of the recent work done by the schools to help feed students during the school closures and provide school counselors via online services, which will continue to do so.
“I hope you will join me in thanking those food service workers and school counselors whose hard work have made these services so successful in meeting our students’ needs,” he said.
More importantly, Worcester County educators will work on creating an online program in the meantime.
“Our school system plans to shift from enrichment and extension activities to a more structured learning program using our online learning management system, Schoology,” Taylor said. “Dependent upon a modification to our current school year calendar by the Board of Education, we anticipate students beginning online learning in the following phases: dual enrollment and advanced placement students will begin classes on Monday, March 30; high school students will begin Wednesday, April 1, and both elementary and middle school students will begin on Monday, April 6.”
Students who left their laptops at school will be able to make arrangements with the school’s main office to retrieve them. Taylor thanked everyone for their patience.
“We are truly a family here in Worcester County, and this crisis has only made our connections more meaningful,” he said. “As we move forward today, know that we are thankful for your patience and understanding as we all embark on this journey of digital learning together.”
Baltimore County elementary school teacher and Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President Cheryl Bost released the following statement following the announcement:
“This is a tough decision, but the right call for the safety of our students, educators, and state. 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 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.”