State Superintendent Mohammed Choudhury said that as COVID cases surge, “schools must be the last places to close.”
As several schools across the state move to virtual learning, the Maryland State Board of Education (MSDE) reiterated its support for full-time, in-person learning.
A press release from MSDE opened, “Understanding the concerns regarding rapidly changing conditions associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, the State Board and Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) continue to prioritize safe full-time, in-person instruction with minimal disruptions.”
The press release continued:
MSDE is committed to supporting local school systems in the effort to keep each and every public school open for in person instruction, especially with readily available state and federal resources. If a local school system feels that it must temporarily adapt to virtual learning at an individual school or in a targeted manner to keep its school community safe, the flexibility exists for the local school system to do so. Only on a case-by-case basis under the most exigent of circumstances and in close consultation with State and local health departments will MSDE support a temporary transition of a school system to virtual learning with guardrails in place that ensure students have access to a connected learning device and meaningful synchronous instruction. However, local school systems that need to temporarily close schools for virtual learning will need to immediately and aggressively work to bring students back to in-person normal attendance and learning as required by Education Article § 7-103.
“Across the State, we must keep schools open for in-person instruction to ensure excellent educational opportunities and strong outcomes for all students, especially those who have been historically underserved and most impacted by the suspension of in-person learning,” said State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury. “There is strong consensus from researchers that schools can and should stay open for in-person instruction and that school leaders must use every tool at their disposal to do so given the adverse effects closures have on students and their families. We have seen the devastating impact of school closures and long-term virtual instruction on student learning here in Maryland and across the country. When COVID-19 transmission increases and health measures become a necessity, schools must be the last places to close. With unprecedented federal and State resources and tools, we can keep schools safely open for in-person, full-time learning.”
The statement from MSDE comes as several schools across the state, and the entire Prince George’s County Public Schools System temporarily return to virtual learning amid a surge in COVID transmission.
Notably, MSDE recently recommended updating the statewide masking policy to include off ramps for Local Education Agencies. The move has yet to be approved by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Regulations (AELR).