Maryland schools Superintendent Karen Salmon announced Wednesday all the state’s schools will remain closed through April 24 due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Salmon said she conducts multiple calls per week with local superintendents and received plans “on the continuity of learning” for students in the next four weeks. The state issued a prior date to reopen schools Monday.
“We do not make this decision lightly,” she said during a press conference in Annapolis while standing six feet from Gov. Larry Hogan. “However, with the challenges facing our state and our country, we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities and the communities at large. While it is too early to definitely say exactly when schools would reopen, we will continue to reassess the situation as we move forward.”
Salmon said child and day care centers will remain open for those deemed essential personnel such as health care workers and food distributors.
She said the state has identified space for 1,200 school-aged children to stay at local YMCAs, public libraries and community centers where workers can take their children. The goal will be to increase the number to 2,500 spaces in the next few days. People can register their children at 1-877-261-0060.
“I am so grateful for our educators and child care providers across the state for their commitment to our children and their school communities,” she said. “I appreciate everyone’s cooperation during this difficult time.”
The Maryland State Education Association released a statement supporting the decision to keep schools closed.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that so many children will miss out on field trips, art projects, athletics, performances, and the everyday enjoyment of being with friends and learning new things together,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the association. “Educators have stepped up since the first day schools were closed and will continue to do all we can to support our students as we work together to overcome this crisis.”
Maryland joins the District of Columbia pubic schools in closing through April 24 and providing hundreds of meals to students at various sites.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday public schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year and called the measure a “necessary” step to combat the novel coronavirus, also called COVID-19.
In Maryland, Salmon said the state will help school systems with resources, information on distance learning and seek “creative ways to make sure we are educating our students with disabilities.”
Prince George’s Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson issued a letter to the school community on surveying students and families who need technology access in preparation for distance learning, as well as ensuring high school seniors receive assignments and other information to graduate.
Goldson said during a press conference Monday all proms and graduation ceremonies are postponed. In a letter sent later that day to parents and other stakeholders, PGCPS said commencement ceremonies could take place “later this summer” and officials are working to secure venues to reschedule senior proms.
“I know how much we have missed each other, but our schoolhouse doors will remain closed for a while longer,” she wrote in letter Wednesday. “We are working to ensure that PGCPS provides every resource possible to support you during this time. These unprecedented circumstances continue to evolve and we will continue to prioritize the wellbeing of children, families, employees and our entire community.”