Guidance for reopening Md. schools could see combination of online, on-site learning

When students come back to school in Maryland, it could be a new and different experience than the one they left behind in March when the coronavirus pandemic closed schools in the state.

State Superintendent Karen Salmon unveiled the plan for students to return to school at a news conference Wednesday.

The 54-page “Maryland Together” education recovery plan “lays the groundwork for the coming months,” Salmon said.

However, she made clear the directions in the report were not a mandate.

“Nothing included indicates any mandate or any requirement that school systems must follow.”

The plan states, “Research has consistently found fully online virtual schools to produce less effective outcomes than those for students who are in brick-and-mortar school settings.”

It offers some ways that schools could try to ease students back into school buildings.

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Among the strategies: having students attend just one day a week, with distance learning the remaining four days.

There could be week-on-week-off sessions.

Or, students in some grades could be back in school settings, while others continue to learn remotely.

The plan seeks to get students back on campus while still allowing for social-distancing — a challenge in schools where crowding is already an issue.

Maryland’s 24 school districts are free to adopt some, all or none of the recommendations.

Salmon made clear it is also not a one-size fits all plan.

Concern over lost instructional time as a result of the coronavirus pandemic was also addressed in the report with a number of ways to deal with what is often referred to as “summer slide” — gains lost when students are not in school.

The report references a variety of research.

For examples, it notes a study that shows how math skills are negatively affected when students are out of school for an extended period of time.

The report suggests using online learning for language arts and in-person instruction for math.

The plan includes suggestions for shifting school calendars to include summer instruction, extending the school day with instruction in the morning or afternoon, and even evening sessions.

Salmon said she did not anticipate schools moving toward reopening under Gov. Larry Hogan’s Phase 1 for opening the state — instead she said it would likely take place in steps, as the state moves toward the second or third phases of the Hogan’s plan, when businesses begin to open and large gatherings are allowed.

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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