MSDE Announces School Year Priorities, Focus on Return to In-Person Instruction

In meetings this week, the Maryland State Board of Education focused on priorities during the 20-21 school year during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the return to in-person instruction.

Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) Superintendent Karen Salmon and Acting Deputy Maryland Department of Health Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan led presentations focused on the latest guidance by the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) research concerning the infection rate in schools and what measures are available to assist local school systems in reopening.

From the press release:

“We continue to emphasize that we must provide the opportunity for our students to return to school buildings in a safe environment with the appropriate health and safety protocols in place,” said State Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon. “The lack of in-person instruction is starkly reinforcing the inequities embedded in our society, and continuing the perpetuation of achievement and learning gaps, leaving our most underserved children even more vulnerable.”

As previously reported on Conduit Street, the State Board and MSDE have worked to provide a framework to assist local board of education and superintendents for reopening, including the “COVID-19 Guidance for Maryland Schools,” which was published jointly by MSDE and the Maryland Department of Health.

Continued from the press release:

“Several studies have suggested that COVID-19 transmission in schools is low, especially for younger students, when mitigation strategies are effectively implemented. Experience in other states have shown that students can return safely to school in limited numbers,” said Acting Deputy Maryland Department of Health Secretary for Public Health Services Jinlene Chan, MD, MPH. “We must balance the overall health and wellbeing of the State’s school children and the need for them to be in school as the response to the ongoing pandemic continues.”

With measures such as the mandatory wearing of masks, proper social distancing and cleaning protocols, school systems within Maryland and across the country have demonstrated how to make the safe transition back into school buildings. Detailed international research shows that the majority of Covid-19 cases are associated with indoor gatherings of adults in restaurants, bars, workplaces, religious gatherings, and elderly care facilities, as well as within households.

Dr. Salmon continued to tout the collaboration with local school systems, stating that MSDE has reviewed all 24 local system reopening plans and offered advice for “improvements and enhancements so that schools [can] prepare for successful in-person instruction.” “Our partners, stakeholders, school staff, parents and students should know that MSDE has been working tirelessly around the clock to provide the leadership, guidance and resources necessary to do open schools for our children,” said Dr. Salmon.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for the latest.