This is despite the Governor’s calls for more in-person classroom instruction.
Frederick, Md (KM) It will be virtual learning for Frederick County Public Schools for the fall semester. That’s according to Board of Education President Brad Young whose reacting to the Governor’s call for local school systems to reopen classrooms for students.
“It’s a little ironic, I guess, that the Governor made an announcement three days before school starts that he’s now okay with students coming back,” Young says.
On Thursday, August 27th,at a news conference, Governor Larry Hogan said progress is being made in the battle against COVID-19, and it’s time for school systems to plan on returning students to classrooms for in-person instruction. Earlier this year, schools in Maryland were ordered closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Governor Hogan said schools can reopen, but they should take precautions against COVID-19 such as wearing masks and social distancing. But any decision was left up to local boards of education.
“The Board has made a statement that as of right now, we’re moving forward with the virtual school start date on Monday,” says Young. “We’ll reassess it later and look at if and when the appropriate time is to bring student back into school.”
But a small number of students will be brought into the school building during the fall. “We will start bringing small groups of students back in in two weeks, and that will certainly give us a chance to evaluate how we can do that effectively and safely for both our staff and our students,” he says.
Young says the Board of Ed will continue to evaluate the situation and determine when it’s safe to bring students back into the buildings in partnership with the Health Department and the County Executive.
“I just don’t understand why the lateness of making this announcement when nothing’s really changed in the last month,” he says. “Had he come out and done this in the beginning part of August or mid-July, it would have made more sense. At this point, it seems to be more of a showboating than anything.”
Virtual learning starts in Frederick County on Monday, August 31st
Meanwhile, the Maryland State Education Association has some strong words for the Governor’s call for schools to reopen for in-person instruction. “There’s been a lot of collaboration and hard work that have gone into the plans in all 24 jurisdictions, massive requirements that have been set earlier this summer,” says MSEA President Cheryl Bost. “For the Governor and State Superintendent now to come out and basically chastise these local districts is very disappointing.”
She noted that precautions will need to be taken to prevent the coronavirus from spreading in schools, and that will be costly for local school districts. “They already have tight budgets. We know that our schools are inadequately funded. And now we’re asking them to provide devices, hotspots. And on top of that, meet ventilation systems requirements, provide masks, Plexiglas on front office secretaries desks,” Bost says.
And this is done without much financial assistance from the state. “I’m waiting for the airplane behind Governor Hogan to say ‘we’re going provide rapid testing with our schools’ as we do with our sports players,” she says. “We want to see, like he set up the Convention Center with ventilators and beds, we want see that he’s providing the things that are needed to meet the CDC guidelines in our schools. And that’s just not happened to date.”
During the news conference last week, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon said $10-million has been set aside to provide assistance to school systems to help them make the transition to in-person learning.
Bost says teachers want to be back in their classrooms with their students, but only if it’s safe. “Because we want to sustain the time that they’re in the building,” she said. “We don’t want to do like we see many colleges or schools in the southern part of the country do, and that’s start in person; stop; go back to virtual; start and stop. We want to make sure we can have an even, steady release into in-person, making sure we get everything right.”
In a statement, MSEA says: “We need more collaboration and problem-solving, not political theater.”
By Kevin McManus