Md. State Supt. encourages schools to reopen, educators say slow down
MARYLAND – State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon is calling for schools to return to in person learning as much as possible. “Zero was never a realistic expectation. Even if there was no spread in schools, we would see some cases because students and teachers can contract the disease outside of school,” said State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon.
Dr. Salmon says that students need the in person interaction, especially special education students. “Students with disabilities benefit the most from face to face experiences. Especially for those students that require extensive, intensive, and individualized instruction,” said Dr. Salmon.
But some of Maryland’s educators are warning that schools just aren’t ready for that point yet. “Our school buildings are not designed to bring 30 students back into the class and have six foot social distancing and keep the cases down,” said Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost.
Epidemiologist Dr. Meagan Fitzpatrick says that in addition to that, high-risk individuals need to be considered as well. “We need to listen to the people who are at high risk. We need to listen to our older educators. We need to listen to the parents of children with pre-existing conditions and ask them what are the levels at which you are safe?” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.
Bost also tells 47ABC that more creative solutions are needed when it comes to dividing up the large work load that teachers face in a hybrid learning model. “They’re just feeling underwater and many of them are parents too. So it’s not like they’re any different than these parents where they can’t do these two jobs simultaneously,” said Bost.
Bost adds that educators are hoping to see a statewide set of guidelines on how COVID-19 cases in schools are reported. “Let’s make it uniform in how it’s being shared across the state, and not say well you have to go to the health department to get it in this county. Whether they’ll share it or not share it is up to that individual,” said Bost.
Meanwhile, Dr. Salmon says that that’s up to local health departments. “School system personnel should be consulting with their local health department on whether their particular set of circumstances warrants action for closing school buildings for a certain period of time,” said Dr. Salmon.