By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
State plan being developed for continuation of learning opportunities for students
(April 2, 2020) Maryland public schools, including those in Worcester County, will remained closed for another four weeks, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced last Wednesday.
During a COVID-19 update meeting held by Gov. Larry Hogan, Salmon declared schools will remain closed until Friday, April 24, and daycare options would remain open for families with essential worker employees who require the service.
“We do not make this decision lightly, however, with the challenges our state and our country, we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities, and the communities at large,” Salmon said. “I’m working in concert with all local school system superintendents, including multiple calls per week, in order to provide the continuity of learning to all of our students in every jurisdiction across the state of Maryland during this time.”
Salmon also said the department is working on providing education services during the extended closures.
“We are already working very closely with every school system to address issues affecting their ability to provide educational services to all of their students,” Salmon said. “It also should be noted that we will be diligent in providing educational services to our students with disabilities.
“Local superintendents have provided me with their plan for the continuity of learning during this additional closure period,” she continued. “My staff at the Maryland Department of Education has been reviewing the plans and determining what supports and resources the state can provide where needed.”
More information will be made available in the coming days regarding a statewide plan, she added. Salmon said her department will reassess the situation following the end of the next four weeks of school closures.
In addition, childcare and daycare facilities will remain open primarily for children of essential workers such as pharmacists, food and agricultural workers, healthcare employees, communications, bank employees and energy sector workers.
Hogan approved of the decision, and acknowledged that the decision was not easily made.
“I just want to take a moment to speak directly to Maryland’s parents, teachers and students,” he said. “I know how incredibly difficult and confusing this last couple of weeks have been for you. Teachers want to know when they’ll be able to get back to their lessons and when they’ll see their students again … and the students want to know when they’ll get back to their normal lives and when they can see their friends and classmates again.
“There’s a lot of confusion and fear and anxiety and uncertainty right now,” he continued. “It’s challenging, [but] I just want all of you to know that there’s nothing more important to us than your health and well-being and education. I want you to know a tremendous group of people – your superintendents, people in your local school system and the State Board of Education – a whole lot of people working across the state … I want to thank them for all their efforts [because] we’re all in this together and we will get through this together.”
Worcester County Public Schools Superintendent Lou Taylor sent a message last Wednesday to parents, teachers and students regarding the announcement.
“We know that this news is disappointing to our students, staff and faculty who have been anxious to get back to the normalcy of everyday life, but we wholeheartedly agree that keeping our students, staff, and the families of Worcester County safe and healthy must be the priority at this time,” Taylor said. “I want to reassure you that our school system leaders have been hard at work to prepare in the case of a continued closure.”
Worcester County educators have been working to create an online curriculum using the learning management system, Schoology.
Dual enrollment and advanced placement students began classes on Monday, March 30, high school students began on Wednesday, April 1, and both elementary and middle school students will begin on Monday, April 6.
In addition, during an emergency Board of Education meeting held on Tuesday, Coordinator of Public Relations and Special Program Carrie Sterrs provided an update to the 2019-2020 school year calendar as a result of the changes made by Hogan and Salmon last month.
“We’ve notated in purple the days of mandated closure from March 16-27 for which the superintendent intends to seek a waiver of the 180-day requirement from the state,” Sterrs said. “Additionally, during the last announcement Dr. Salmon made, she indicated that continuity of learning days began March 30 and will last through April 24.
“Continuity of learning days count toward meeting that 180-day requirement in order to maximize learning and get back into a more structured learning environment,” she continued.
The superintendent recommended April 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9 will now become continuity of learning days for students, with April 9 now serving as the end of the third marking period. The contractual professional day has been moved to Tuesday, April 14, which means students will not report on that day and teachers will use this day to finalize quarter three grades.
The calendar would not change the observance of state holidays and other national holidays like Good Friday and Easter Monday.
“As the state primary date has changed, so has our countywide professional development day,” Sterrs said. “We will now hold this day on Tuesday, June 2. Lastly, if granted, the waiver of the full 10 days, our tentative last day of school will be held on June 11. Should the state deny any number of the days requested in the waiver, we will extend the school year utilizing the dates in June highlighted in orange on the calendar.”
On the calendar, the orange dates indicate schools would continue from June 12 to June 25, provided the state does not accept the requested number of days in the waiver.
The Board of Education approved the changes, with the exception of Barry Q. Brittingham Sr., who was absent.