Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said in a press conference today that he wants all Maryland schools to begin operating in an in-person or hybrid capacity by March 1. Families and students will have the option of sticking with virtual learning through the Covid pandemic.
“There is no public health reason for county school boards to keep students out of schools,” Hogan said. “This isn’t really controversial. The science is clear.”
Maryland public schools were authorized to reopen for in-person instruction in August, and Hogan said many schools have already gotten some high-priority students back into the classroom. Online learning has “taken a toll on students, families and educators,” he said, citing learning losses of five to nine months, with students of color and low-income students suffering especially hard.
Medical experts at the press conference said there is “little evidence” that school reopening is a major driver of community spread, adding that transmission in schools is relatively uncommon when proper safety protocols are followed. They noted that there is some evidence young children are less likely to spread the virus.
The state will be providing PPE to schools, and is making unlimited testing available to every county. Teachers and staff are being prioritized in the state’s vaccination rollout, with some being vaccinated as soon as this week. Still, teachers and students don’t have to receive the vaccine to return to the classroom.
Hogan said that he “fully expect[s] teachers to make every effort to return to the classroom.” In the press conference, he mentioned that Chicago has cut off pay for teachers who refuse to come back to school in-person, and that South Carolina has threatened to remove teaching licenses.
“We do not want to have to take such actions here in Maryland,” Hogan said. “But if the school systems do not immediately begin a good faith effort to return to the classroom, we will explore every legal avenue at our disposal.”