ANNAPOLIS — Maryland schools Superintendent Karen Salmon announced Friday that state schools will remain closed through May 15 amid the coronavirus pandemic, as state officials continue to balk at ending the school year like neighboring jurisdictions D.C. and Virginia.
The previous date for schools to remain closed until was April 24.
“I feel that this is one of those decisions we need to make incrementally to see where we are,” Salmon said during a press conference in Annapolis. “We don’t know what’s going to happen and I certainly don’t want to dash the hopes of many children and parents that there might be some other ways to recover school going forward.”
Salmon said high school graduation ceremonies are overseen by local superintendents but must adhere to executive orders set by Gov. Larry Hogan.
During weekly meetings with superintendents, Salmon said “creative” ideas offered for ceremonies included virtual celebration for high school seniors.
“I don’t think that we’re going to be seeing the types of ceremonies at this point that we have in the past,” she said.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said in a statement that Salmon’s decision ensures students and educators remain safe while students continue distance learning.
“We know that this type of learning is no substitute for in-person learning, and we will need to be thoughtful and serious about how we help students recover from this crisis,” said Bost, an elementary teacher in Baltimore County. “Everyone’s safety is paramount, but we remain hopeful that educators and students will be able to spend time together again at their schools before this school year is over.”
In the meantime, distance learning will continue for nearly 900,000 students statewide.
Salmon reiterated that school system leaders must present a “continuity of learning” plan with a description on how to address equity for special education students, English language learners and homeless students. It must also address technology and other resources available.
In Prince George’s County, which has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, Wi-Fi hot spots are available at more than three dozen schools. Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students can receive virtual lesson on PGCPS-TV.
Instructional packets can also be picked up in limited quantities at school meals sites on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The distance learning scheduled from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. attempts to not only overwhelm students for a full day of instruction without in-person interaction, but public schools CEO Monica Goldson said some students are either at home by themselves or watching siblings while their parents work at essential jobs.
In addition, she said the time frame allows educators to spend time with their children.
One of the main aspects she, educators and some parents had to learn is the use of technology.
“I’ve done more video conferencing and meetings than I can count,” Goldson said. “It has changed how we all look at technology and how we do business moving forward. Our kids are always using technology, so it was very quick for them to adapt. It’s adults who had to change.”
Students, parents and other county residents with questions or concerns, Goldson hosted the first of three telephone town halls that began Tuesday, April 21 with student board member Joshua Omolola.
The next one will be Thursday, April 23 for employees and the final session Wednesday, April 29 for parents and the school community.
Meanwhile, principals at Surrattsville and Fairmount Heights high schools posted updates for seniors on Twitter such as college signing day May 1 and career signing day May 7.
In addition to providing that information and announcing that May 22 will be the last day for seniors, Largo High School Principal Afie Mirshah-Nayar posted a few pictures from the past school year and a heartfelt message for the class of 2020.
“I want you to know we are in as much pain as you are and hate how your senior year/time at Largo is ending,” Mirshah-Nayar posted Friday on Twitter alongside 12th grade assistant principal Albert T. Lewis Sr. “Brother Lew and I are with you no matter what. We will figure this out but we know it will be less than what we had planned.”