Maryland Gov Larry Hogan set a deadline of March 1 today for public schools in the state’s 24 districts to open their buildings for in-person learning—or else!
The governor noted the failures of remote learning, saying it was responsible for students falling behind and for their reduced social and emotional growth during the pandemic. He said he expects assistance from the Biden administration in terms of a safe reopening plan for schools and mentioned studies and professional health and educational organizations, including most of Maryland’s private schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics, that also call for in-person instruction.
“A growing consensus has emerged in Maryland and across the country that there is no public health reason for county school boards to keep students out of schools,” he said at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
His viewpoint was supported by Maryland Deputy Health Secretary Dr Jinlene Chan, who addressed the press at the conference as well. “Studies have indicated that transmission in schools is relatively uncommon when there is effective implementation of the mitigation strategies, including distancing, use of masks and cleaning,” she said.
State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon added that students who are remote learning can expect to fall behind academically between five and nine months, with minority and some disadvantaged student populations losing a disproportionate amount of learning.
Although the governor and state superintendent can’t legally order schools to reopen, Mr Hogan said he would do everything he could to make that happen.
“If school systems do not immediately begin a good-faith effort to return to the classrooms, we will explore every legal avenue at our disposal,” Mr Hogan added, pointing to actions taken by other states and school districts to push schools to reopen their classrooms to students.
- “The city of Chicago has cut off pay for those teachers refusing to return to the classroom,” he said.
- “South Carolina has threatened to take away all of their teaching licenses.
- “Ohio will now only offer vaccinations to teachers in the school systems that commit to continuing or beginning in-person learning.
“We don’t want to have to take such action,” he said. But, “our children simply cannot afford any more endless roadblocks or any more moving of the goalposts. The time has come to get all of our kids back into the classrooms and to reopen our schools.”
Some pushback has been reported from a teacher union leader in the state.
“Making threats and really changing the goalpost constantly is not beneficial to getting our students back,” WBAL-TV (NBC affiliate) quoted Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, as saying. “It was just Monday that he put educators to start getting vaccinated throughout the state. The threats and the blame and the calling out people is totally unnecessary, and it doesn’t set a good role model as we try to do for our students.”