Governor Says School Systems Can Resume In-Person Instruction With Safety Measures In Place

He says improvements have been made in battling the COVID-19 virus.                                                            


Annapolis, Md (KM) With improvements in battling the coronavirus, Governor Larry Hogan says every school system in Maryland is fully authorized to reopen safely, and that includes in-person classroom instruction.

During a news conference in Annapolis on Thursday, the Governor  urged all school systems “to develop safe and phased reopening plans that can help us begin to put some sense of normalcy back into the lives of students, parent and teachers; while at the same time working diligently to keep them safe.”

Schools in Maryland were closed in March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. But the Governor’s office says the state’s positivity rate is now under 3.3%, a decline of nearly 87% since it peaked at 26.91% on April 17th. Last week, the positivity rate for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began is below the 5% level in all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland, with 17 of the state’s jurisdictions have positivity rates below 3.5%. The latest positivity rate in Frederick county is 2.4%. That’s the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus out of all of those patients tested over a seven-day period.

During that  news conference, Acting Deputy Health Secretary Jinlene Chan said school systems can  at least partially reopen their buildings if the local  positivity rates are below 5%, and the number of local COVID-19 cases are five per 100,000. But they must put safety measures in place  to guard against the coronavirus. “And in especially in relation to maintaining physical distancing between people of six-feet or greater, wearing a face covering at all times while on school grounds or in school buildings, as well as in school-provided transportation,” she said.

Many school systems, including Frederick County, have decided on virtual instruction for at the least first semester. That means teachers will provide their lessons on line, with students following along on their home computers

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon says the state can’t mandate local school systems to return to in-person instruction, but it’s asking them to re-evaluate their mode of instruction at the end of the first quarter. “I am strongly encouraging the local school system to utilize our improving numbers and the provided metrics as driving force for  the decision to return to school buildings,” she said.

She says the state has set aside $10-million to help school systems move toward in-person instruction.

At the news conference, Dr. Chan was asked what would happen if there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at a school. She said the school system would work in partnership with the local health department. “to make decisions whether or not there may need to be additional mitigation measures or if, in fact, if it is more widespread, whether a classroom may need to be shut down, or in certain circumstances, that individual school,” Dr. Chan said.

She emphasizes that these recommendation from the state are not  mandates.   “And flexibility is provided for schools to decide how to make decisions in order to best meet the educational needs of their students,” Dr. Chan explains. “along with taking into account what the needs of their staff are, and in accordance with the CDC guidance at the MDH {Maryland Department of Health} guidance.”


By Kevin McManus