Maryland’s education department urged school systems on Monday to keep classrooms open in-person despite a surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the state.
The Maryland State Department of Education prioritizes “safe, full-time, in-person instruction with minimal disruptions,” the department said in a statement.
School closures due to COVID-19 should be rare, the education department said. When they do occur, districts need a plan for bringing students back.
“Only on a case-by-case basis under the most exigent of circumstances and in close consultation with State and local health departments will MSDE support a temporary transition of a school system to virtual learning with guardrails in place that ensure students have access to a connected learning device and meaningful synchronous instruction,” the department’s statement said. “However, local school systems that need to temporarily close schools for virtual learning will need to immediately and aggressively work to bring students back to in-person normal attendance and learning as required by Education Article § 7-103.”
When areas see a surge in COVID cases, “schools must be the last places to close,” State Superintendent of Schools Mohammed Choudhury said.
“Across the State, we must keep schools open for in-person instruction to ensure excellent educational opportunities and strong outcomes for all students, especially those who have been historically underserved and most impacted by the suspension of in-person learning,” Choudhury said in the statement.
“Our objective is to keep children and staff safe in in-person classroom environments, because we know that out of school virtual learning is simply not as effective for many students as signaled by Maryland’s first marking period diminished academic achievement and increased achievement gaps,” State Board President Clarence Crawford said.
Prince George’s County Public Schools opted on Friday to temporarily return to virtual learning amid a number of COVID cases, plus staffing problems. gov. Larry Hogan criticized the district in comments Sunday on Fox News.
“It’s a big deal and a terrible mistake and something that we’re very opposed to,” Hogan said. “We all want to keep our kids safe, but we’ve got protocols in place.”
Hogan said on Fox News that COVID hospitalizations in the state have risen by about 150 percent over the past two weeks.
Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story.