While Talbot schools will open the year virtually, the school system’s plan for instruction calls for small groups of students to attend in-person learning beginning the second week of school, according to the county’s school superintendent.
Responding to a Thursday afternoon press conference in which Gov. Larry Hogan pushed Maryland schools to provide in-school instruction, Kelly Griffith said the school system had worked with workgroups and a stakeholder committee to create its recovery plan.
“I am very proud of the collaborative efforts of the TCPS Recovery workgroups and the work of the stakeholder committee in the creation of our recovery plan, as it aligns with expectations and provides measures to be in place to ensure a safe work/learning environment for all,” Griffith said in a press release. “We will proceed with beginning the school year virtually, but as our plan outlines, we will bring small groups of students in special populations into school buildings starting the second week of school.”
Talbot’s school superintendent also said she appreciated the statewide health metrics for schools that the Maryland health department issued on Thursday.
School will start virtually for all Talbot County public school students on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Teachers reported for work on Monday, Aug. 24.
The Talbot County Board of Education approved the recovery plan for the 2020-21 school year during its Aug. 12 meeting.Recovery 8-14-2020-F
Dr. Jinlene Chan, Maryland’s acting deputy secretary of public health services, announced new metrics Thursday for school systems to use to evaluate whether it is safe to reopen for at least some face-to-face instruction.
If a school jurisdiction has below 5% test positivity, or five cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, it should have the ability to hold in-person instruction, as long as students, teachers and staff follow physical distancing and mask-wearing guidance, Chan said.
Even schools with positivity rates above 5% should still be able to open for at least some in-person learning in a hybrid model, she continued.
Hogan, in Thursday’s press conference, said every school system in the state is allowed to begin safely reopening schools for in-person learning.
“Nearly everyone agrees that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Hogan said.
All 24 Maryland school districts are beginning the year virtually, with some planning to bring in small groups of students for face-to-face learning as early as Sept. 8. However, eight school districts, including the two biggest, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, have indicated that they are remaining virtual for most of the first semester.
It is “simply not acceptable” that some school boards have “not even attempted to develop any safe reopening plans” that would bring students back into school buildings, Hogan said.
“It’s easier to say we are not going to bring any kids back for the rest of the year, as opposed to sitting down and doing the hard work of trying to figure out how could we get kids back for safe instruction,” Hogan said.
The authority to change reopening plans lies with each county board of education, but their decisions must be based on new statewide benchmarks, Hogan said. “We are going to put pressure on them.”
Dr. Karen Salmon, the state school superintendent, also said she is “strongly encouraging” local schools to reevaluate their mode of instruction by the end of the first quarter of the school year, which is in November.
At least 3 1/2 hours a day should be dedicated to live learning to ensure that all Maryland children are receiving an equal education, Salmon, a former Talbot school superintendent, said. The state board will decide whether that should be a new requirement for all school systems early next week.
Maryland Matters contributed to this article.