Maryland Governor Authorizes All State Schools to Reopen As Pandemic Continues

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By Alexis Taylor
Special to the AFRO

Just one week after hitting a milestone for decreased coronavirus cases, Governor Larry Hogan has authorized all schools to reopen in Maryland.

The authorization was released with economic data, COVID-19 statistics, and the announcement of an additional $10 million in grant funds to school districts that make a move toward in-person instruction.

“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 Governor Hogan in a statement. “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.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. (AP Photo)

Information from the Governor’s Office stated that Maryland’s positivity rate has decreased “to 3.3 percent, a decline of more than 87 percent since it peaked on April 17 at 26.91 percent.”

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The governor made the statement in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Health’s Acting Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services, Dr. Jinlene Chan, and MSDE State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Karen Salmon.

According to the statement, “last week, for the first time, the COVID-19 positivity rate for all 24 jurisdictions in Maryland fell below the 5% milestone.”

“The positivity rate among Marylanders under the age of 35 has declined by 44 percent since July 23, and has now fallen below 4 perent, to 3.79 percent. The positivity rate among Marylanders 35 and older has dropped below 3 percent, and is now 2.97 percent.”

Hogan wasted no time in giving the authorization to reopen, but parents, teachers, and stakeholders say the data means nothing if the COVID-19 diagnosis hits home.

CASA Director of Education Maritza Solano issued a statement in response to Governor Hogan’s decision, calling it “a negligent decision” that is “both dangerous and shortsighted.”

“Maryland is still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic – Black and Latino working families disproportionately affected now more than ever,” said Solano. “Worse yet, we anticipate a second wave of the virus as well as flu season kicking in this fall. To protect ourselves from Governor Hogan’s actions, a special session in the Maryland General Assembly is needed now more than ever.”

“Dr. Salmon’s stance behind Governor Hogan’s statement demonstrates that guidance and support school districts need at this time is missing. The Maryland State Department of Education should not put political pandering above the welfare of our public schools, students, and educators.”

Juan Nance, a community school coordinator for Baltimore City Public Schools, told the AFRO that Hogan made his decision to authorize reopenings without “thinking about Baltimore City Public Schools.”

“I think he was thinking about all the other schools and other counties that have the space and capacity to do what they need to do,” said Nance. “We want a full semester of virtual learning. The school buildings are not prepared for students to be in them.”

This week, protesters covered the doors of Baltimore City Public Schools’ (BCPS) headquarters on North Avenue highlighting the fact that school districts surrounding Baltimore have all announced closures through the Winter semester.

“City Schools believes in-person teaching and learning is best for our students,” said BCPS in a statement sent to the AFRO. “We share Gov. Hogan’s desire to reopen schools fully, by taking steps gradually as health and safety conditions permit. In alignment with that vision, City Schools will continue to explore the best ways locally to do that while protecting those at the heart of our mission- our student, families, and staff.”