by David M. Higgins II, Publisher

Annapolis, MD- Governor Larry Hogan, along with State Education Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon held a press conference this evening to discuss the State’s Coronoavirus status along with plans for the 2020/21 school year from a state perspective.

Dr. Salmon announced that local school systems will have the flexibility to determine, in consultation with their local health officers, how they will open and which groups of students and staff will be able to re-enter school buildings. Depending on conditions in their locality, school systems may be more restrictive than the requirements outlined in the state’s recovery plan.

“We want to get our students back to school as soon as possible for in-person instruction, and this should be the driving goal and the basis for all of our decisions,” said Dr. Salmon. “However, the imminent safety and health of students and staff must, and always will be, the first priority.”

The guardrails that the local systems must follow are:

CDC Guidelines for schools

Protocols for any outbreaks

Benchmarks for reopening

For CDC Guidelines, students and staff MUST wear face-masks WHEN social distancing is not possible. They must stress the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and the use of face coverings. The only exceptions to the face coverings are when a medical condition is present that would make wearing the mask prohibitive, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or any other safety concerns.

Students and staff must wear the coverings as much as possible when entering the school building along with while on public school transportation. School systems should provide resources to families regarding the importance and expectation for the use of cloth face-covering in school and information should be provided to staff, students and students’ families regarding the school system expectation of parents to provide cloth face covering or whether the school will provide them.

The guidelines dealing with notification protocols states,” Schools should provide written notification and next steps to all identified contacts. Schools should follow instructions from the local health department for all matters regarding quarantine, exclusion, and return to school for persons with a positive test for COVID-19 and those who had close contact. “

MDH Guidance for Schools Re… by David M. Higgins II on Scribd

If you cannot read the embedded “Guidelines for Outbreak Protocols”, please click here:

The schools MUST meet the following benchmarks before reopening:

  • Incorporate equity as a component in the local recovery plan;
  • Establish local education recovery, stakeholder groups;
  • Identify learning gaps and instructional placement of students;
  • Follow and maintain curricular frameworks and Maryland College and Career Ready Standards;
  • Adhere to components of IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and ADA;
  • Adopt and follow health procedures outlined by the MSDE, MDH, and CDC, including cleaning and sanitization;
  • Ensure safe transportation for all students;
  • Develop a system for tracking attendance; and
  • Follow the Maryland Public Secondary Sports Athletic Association guidance for interscholastic athletics and activities.

Dr. Salmon also announced that $100 million was allocated to equip Maryland’s students with up-to-date devices, $100 million for tutoring, and learning assistance for students that have fallen behind and need additional assistance from time off. Dr. Salmon also announced that $10 million has been allocated to bring broadband internet to Western, and Southern Maryland along with on the Eastern Shore. This money comes from the CARES Act enacted by Congress earlier this summer.

Charles and St. Mary’s Counties have announced they will be starting the 2020/21 school year online, but have no definite timetable of when they will begin the “Hybrid-Style” instruction. In the Hybrid-Style education plan, students will more than likely attended school in-person two to three times per week in smaller groups and at multiple locations. Dr. J. Scott, Superintendent of St. Mary’s County Public Schools(SMCPS) said during an SMCPS Board meeting on Wednesday, that they were in talks with College of Southern Maryland about having Seniors taking college classes which would give them high school and college credit. All of these things are still being worked out and Local School districts MUST have the plan to the Maryland State Board of Education by August 14, 2020.

Calvert County has not announced their plan for the start of the 2020/21, but it is expected soon.

The Southern Maryland Chronicle will continue to follow the Southern Maryland School Districts plans for the upcoming year.

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...