Maryland- On Thursday, August 27, 2020, Gov. Larry Hogan, with State Education Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon announced that the State was authorizing school districts to begin opening the schools for in-person learning.

“As a result of our improved health metrics, every single county school system in the State of Maryland is now fully authorized to begin safely reopening,” said Gov. Hogan. “Nearly everyone agrees that there is no substitute for in-person instruction. It is essential that we all work together on flexible hybrid plans to safely get some of our kids back into classrooms and into healthy and supportive learning environments.”

“The authority and decision making on safe openings continues to rest with county boards of education. Decisions should be based on a set of statewide metrics, guidelines, and bench marks issued today by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) in collaboration with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).”

The Governor, along with the State Department of Education is providing monetary incentives to those districts that are able to move toward the in-person instruction. The state is making $10 million in grant funding available to help systems that are able to move toward in-person instruction.

“While adherence to these metrics for reentry into classrooms are not considered requirements, I am strongly encouraging local school systems to utilize our improving numbers and the provided metrics as the driving force for the decision to return to school buildings,” said Dr. Salmon. “Health and safety precautions must remain in place once we begin to bring more students back into schools, and school systems should continue to work in conjunction with local health officials to monitor trends in the metrics and any outbreaks at area schools.”

Charles County is currently listed in the “Medium Risk Range” with a 9.28 per 100,000 (4.38% Positivity Rate). Calvert County and St. Mary’s Counties are listed as “Low Range Risk” at 3.09 (1.80%) and 3.15 (1.43%) respectively.

Charles County Director of Communications Katie O’Malley-Simpson said of CCPS plan to reopen,” The Governor’s announcement yesterday does not change our plans to start the school year with online, virtual learning. Charles County Public Schools opens with virtual instruction on Monday, August 31, and we will follow our progressive, five-phase reopening plan to bring students back to our school buildings as soon and as safely as possible. Children begin returning to classrooms in Phase 2, which calls for special populations of students to return to our classrooms first.”

“Our Reopening Plan outlines how CCPS will safely bring groups of students back to our classrooms throughout this school year,” she continued.

The Charles County Plan is as follows with no definite dates:

The CCPS Reopening Plan includes detailed plans the school system will follow to start the new school year. The plan includes five Phases in which teaching and learning will occur for teachers and students. The Phases are summarized below.

  • Phase 1: All students will participate in virtual instruction four days per week. CCPS will provide a schedule for each level, lessons will be live and traditional grading and attendance practices will be in place. Teachers will provide prerecorded instruction one day per week.
  • Phase 2: Special population students (students receiving special education services, English Learners (EL) students, students with a 504 plan, students without internet connectivity, homeless and displaced students, students enrolled in specific Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and children of employees of CCPS) will be offered face-to-face instruction four days per week with recorded virtual instruction one day per week.
  • Phase 3: Prekindergarten through Grade 2 students, Grade 6 and Grade 9 students will be offered face-to-face instruction four days per week and recorded virtual instruction one day per week.
  • Phase 4: All students in Prekindergarten through Grade 12 will be offered face-to-face instruction two days per week on a rotating basis. Virtual learning will take place on off-site school days. Student groups identified in Phase 3 will continue face-to-face instruction four days per week.
  • Phase 5: All students in Prekindergarten through Grade 12 return to face-to-face instruction five days per week.

On July 14, 2020, the Board of Education of Charles County voted to start the 2020-21 school year in Phase 1, with the goal to transition into Phase 2 as quickly as possible.

In Calvert County, Supervisor of Accountability Cathy Page stated,” … we are proceeding with our reopening plan — school will start virtually on Wednesday[September 2], and we will start bringing in small groups of students on September 21.”

According to Calvert County’s Reopening plan, the introduction states,” To prepare for the reopening of school, workgroups were formed with administrators, supervisors, teacher leaders, and parents to explore options outlined in the Maryland Recovery Plan for Education. After weeks and weeks of research and collaboration, it has been determined that the best option for reopening CCPS under the Maryland Phase 2 plan will be a blended learning environment from September 3, 2020, through January 27, 2021. A decision regarding instructional delivery during the second semester will be made prior to January 1, 2021.”

The Southern Maryland Chronicle has reached out to the St. Mary’s County Public Schools and has not heard back from them at publishing time. We will update if a response is provided.

According to St. Mary’s County’s Back to School Reopening Plan, their steps will,” Initially, SMCPS will begin the school year in a virtual-only instructional model given the current public health conditions. This will allow time to safely begin instruction with the online platform, to plan for the needs of our families, and to provide sufficient support and training for staff and students on new COVID-19 protocols. “

From this point, SMCPS is planning to provide for a phased-in process for students to reenter, following alternating schedules as described below. Projected planning includes the following:

  • Phases will be reviewed periodically to determine next steps for each grade level or age transition.
  • Phases may be adjusted based on changing public health conditions and implementation experience.

Sequencing: Students in specific special education programs and students new to a school level (Prekindergarten, Kindergarten, 6th, and 9th) are the first returning to school.

Phase 1: 

  • Begin with online learning with consideration for students receiving specialized services

Phase 2: 

  • Sequence bringing in grade-level groups starting with Pre K/Kindergarten, 6, 9, 12 grade

Phase 3:

  • Monitor and add additional grades until all levels are back PreK-12

Dates and progress of phases will be reviewed before each step to determine the next steps moving forward.

“I want to emphasize that this is guidance to aid in decision-making rather than being prescriptive, and there is the flexibility that schools have to make decisions about how to best meet the educational needs of their students while taking into account the level of community spread and their capacity to implement the guidelines,” said Dr. Jinlene Chan, Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services at MDH. 

You can read each of the Districts School Reopening Plans by clicking the county below:

Calvert County Reopening

Charles County Reopening

St. Mary’s County Reopening

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...

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