Updates from the State Superintendent

OCTOBER 26, 2020 UPDATE

Opening Remarks by State Superintendent Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.
Board of Education Meeting: October 26, 2020

Before we begin some of our presentations today, I want to take a few minutes to talk about the reopening of our schools. The success of the path to recovery depends on the actions of all leaders in our State.  It has been said that true leaders act during chaotic times and it is our responsibility as educators to take actions now that will return students gradually and safely to in-person instruction. The stakes could not be higher.

A study conducted by Emily Oster, a researcher at Brown University on almost 200,000 students in 47 states from the last two weeks of September revealed an infection rate of 0.13 percent among students and 0.24 percent among staff. That’s about 1.3 infections over two weeks in a school of 1,000 kids, or 2.2 infections over two weeks in a group of 1,000 staff. Even in high-risk areas of the country, the student rates were well under half a percent.  The lead researcher on the dashboard, Dr. Emily Oster, has written in the Atlantic and the New York Times about schools not being super-spreaders. Her assertions seem to be supported by data, and she is a highly reputable economist and researcher.  I actually have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Oster on Wednesday, along with my Chief State Officer colleagues across the Nation to discuss her findings in more detail.

In addition to the standard precautions, modeling by Mathematica suggests that by having school in-person but limiting student exposure to others (either via a hybrid model or by adding more classes), with precautions (including wearing masks, eliminating additional mixing of students outside of class, and putting six feet of distance between desks),  "most infections coming from outside the school will produce zero additional infections in the school." Two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job. Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it's time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.

An estimate from McKinsey and Company suggests that, if schools don’t return to in-person schooling until January 2021, students could lose between three and eleven months of learning, depending on the quality of the remote learning.  Those losses, it suggests, will most disproportionately impact Black, Hispanic, and low-income students. Remote learning cannot replace students’ experiences with their teachers, administrators, and support staff. All of the students and educators with whom I have spoken have greatly missed the daily interactions that can only be experienced in classrooms and schools. We must all unite in our efforts to maintain equitable learning opportunities and safely return students to their schools.

We understand that the number of COVID cases in schools will not be zero, and for some people that means the numbers are not acceptable in terms of returning students to school buildings. But zero was never a realistic expectation. Even if there was no spread in schools, we’d see some cases, because students and teachers can contract the disease outside of school. But the numbers have been small—perhaps smaller than what had been forecasted at the initial stages of the pandemic. One might make the argument that any risk is too great and that schools must be completely safe before local school systems move towards any in-person instruction. But this approach disregards the enormous costs to children of keeping school buildings closed.

Researcher Youki Terada writes that schools are “the de facto mental health system for many children and adolescents,” providing mental health services to 57 percent of adolescents who need care, according to the authors of a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics. School closures may be especially disruptive for children from lower-income families; children who are disproportionately likely to receive mental health services exclusively from schools. “The COVID-19 pandemic may worsen existing mental health problems and lead to more cases among children and adolescents because of the unique combination of the public health crisis, social isolation, and economic recession,” write the authors of that study.

Dr. Danielle Dooley, a medical director at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C., told NPR, "As a pediatrician, I am really seeing the negative impacts of these school closures on children." She ticked off mental health problems, hunger, obesity due to inactivity, missing routine medical care and the risk of child abuse — on top of the loss of education. "Going to school is really vital for children. They get their meals in school, their physical activity, their health care, their education, of course."

Adam Rosenberg, the vice president for violence intervention and prevention at LifeBridge Health and the executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, said one of the first things they saw in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic was that reports of abuse plummeted by more than 70%. But Rosenberg said that's not because the abuse is not happening. "Vulnerable people are even more vulnerable during a crisis, and especially during a pandemic," Rosenberg said.  It's because allies like teachers, coaches, co-workers, neighbors and family members don't have as much contact and access. When abuse is finally reported, the severity of the abuse, whether it be child abuse or domestic violence, is much more dramatic than it has ever been before.”

Maryland local school systems and public agencies serve approximately 160,000 infants, toddlers, young children, and students with disabilities across the State annually (just over 12% of the school age population) with special education and related services tailored to individual needs. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been no federal waivers to the provisions of early intervention/special education and related services. Local systems have been required to implement student IEPs as written or amend them with parent permission or revise them through the IEP Team process. Although strides have been made in the implementation of specially designed instruction (SDI) through alternative service delivery models, the MSDE position on face-to-face instruction remains steadfast for all students, and especially for our students with disabilities. Students with disabilities benefit the most from face-to-face experiences especially for those students who require extensive, intensive, and individualized instruction/supports.  

The task of educating more than 900 thousand children within our State is as complex as the world they will face.  It requires the combined efforts of parents, students, teachers, administrators, government, business and stakeholders.  At the beginning of the onslaught of the coronavirus and to this day, the education system has had to adapt, innovate and overcome.  I commend everyone for rising to the challenge. Now we must commit ourselves to lead in the same manner to bring students safely back to our classrooms.  I believe that we can do this given the metrics and guidance that has been provided.  Rather than focusing on obstacles that impede that goal, we must focus on solutions that will overcome them.  We must put aside partisan politics and agendas and consider our highest priority which must be the education and safety of students. MSDE stands ready to work together through continued partnership and collaboration.

To date, we are aware that 14 of our local school systems are implementing or will be implementing in November a hybrid model for in-person instruction. The hybrid models in the 14 local school systems are in a variety of forms and there are many factors upon which decisions are based in each school system .We recognize that moving to a hybrid model places additional responsibilities on our teachers and we are talking with individual systems to help them look at their needs and how they want to address the needs of their students. School systems continue to provide professional learning opportunities for teachers to teach in this model and to provide planning time for the teachers.

I think it’s very important for the context of today and tomorrow’s discussions to also address some of the conversations that were had at a briefing held by the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee this past Wednesday regarding the return of in-person instruction in schools and recovery efforts to mitigate learning loss.During the briefing there was disappointment expressed by members of the committee, including the Chair and the Vice Chair, that there was no participation at this briefing from the Department.  I think I must clarify that neither the State Board nor the Department were invited to present or be a part of this briefing in any capacity. Wednesday’s briefing was a critical one in which many essential topics were discussed; topics that frequently addressed the roles of both the State Board and MSDE in the reopening of schools.  It is disappointing to me that an invitation to participate in this critical discussion was not extended to either the Maryland State Department of Education or the State Board of Education.

Unfortunately, all of the facts about the various issues that were discussed were not shared and this led to inaccurate and false statements. Those actions will not help us achieve what we need to for the children of this state.  Continuing to lay blame upon others in order to deflect it from ourselves is not helping the children get back to school.  The time to stop the political finger pointing and join together to get are education system up and running is now.  We must work together to get our children back into the classrooms and provide the strong instructional program they all deserve. To that point, I believe that it is prudent to review and provide a frame of reference for some of the statements that were made during the briefing. Concerns were expressed about a dearth of guidance from the State-level on several issues of health and safety related to school reopening’s, particularly surrounding metrics, available PPE, contact tracing, COVID testing, procedures for operating during an identified COVID outbreak in schools, reporting of cases in schools, and finally the eventual protocol for distribution of vaccines to members of the school community.

I want to share some of the facts that were not shared at Wednesday’s briefing.  Many continue to complain that the State has not provided guidance to school systems.  That is totally inaccurate – the guidance is there – it must be digested and applied. The State Board established guidelines for reopening schools with its June 2020 Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education: COVID-19 Response and the Path Forward (as revised from the earlier May plan), and required the local school systems to submit reopening plans to MSDE for review, comment and approval. On July 21, 2020, the MDH and MSDE issued joint guidance for Response to a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 and Persons with COVID-19 Like Illnesses in Schools, Child Care Programs, and Youth Camps.  The guidance is designed to expedite notification, isolation, and quarantine of school staff, students, or both and intended to be used in collaboration between the local school systems and local health department.

The State Board and MSDE along with the Maryland Health Department have guided the local boards in setting the “guard rails” for reopening to in person instruction. MDH and MSDE released specific guidance and a decision aid on July 23rd that lays out how to identify, isolate, quarantine and return students and staff that are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus. This document is very specific in how a school should be handling potential exposure to COVID-19. On August 27, 2020, MDH and MSDE published joint guidance COVID-19 Guidance for Maryland Schools.  Within this guidance are health metrics to guide school reopening discussions.  It is comprehensive and detailed.  These metrics examine the positivity rate and rate of new cases in a jurisdiction and offer recommendations for a mode of instruction within that framework. For example, if a system is in a county where the positivity rate is greater than 5 percent and the new case rate is more than 15 per 100,000 residents, the suggestion is to have limited or no in-person programs in schools.

Just this past week, Dorchester County Public Schools, in coordination with their local health department, decided to return to fully virtual learning because they exceeded both of the criteria that are outlined in the metrics. This is an example of the metrics being utilized to inform health-based decisions at the local level. Several school systems have utilized these metrics as conditions improve to begin sending groups of students back into the classroom in this school year. Any suggestion that we have not provided health metrics to local school systems is an entirely spurious claim. Moreover, the State Board has required revised plans to be due to MSDE after the first school quarter, that include plans to return students to in-person instruction.

In terms of PPE, we’ve coordinated with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and other State agency partners to distribute over 570,000 masks, 162,000 gloves, 17,500 gowns, and 10,500 face shields to LSSs to this point. These supplies are in addition to the PPE purchased through their CARES Act funding.  This effort to enhance the supply of PPE to the Local School Systems will continue, and as was mentioned last week at the hearing no specific number or quantity of PPE has been cited by local superintendents as a barrier for reopening schools. We will continue to collaborate and assist local superintendents as they express concerns regarding the issue of PPE in schools, however, for those school systems that have not opened for any in person instruction, it would be hard to quantify how much PPE is actually needed.

Both MDH and local health departments are leading the way in terms of contact tracing operations and communicating with school personnel about identifying close contacts. Every set of circumstances with an outbreak is different, and school system personnel should consult with the local health department on whether that particular set of circumstances warrants action for closing a school building for a certain period of time. The Health Department guidance lays out the information that the school should provide to both the local health department and to contacts identified in the tracing operation. School systems should have a system of communication in place where they can be expeditiously notified by parents or staff as they are made aware of possible exposure to or infection from COVID-19.

The Maryland Health Department will soon be posting online a summary of COVID 19 outbreaks in both public and nonpublic schools.  MSDE has been working closely with them on this effort and has had discussions with the Local Superintendents about this.  Beginning next week, Deputy Health Director, Dr. Jinlene Chan and I will be holding weekly calls with the Local Superintendents and Local Health Department Officers now that the majority of schools are opening for in-person instruction.  These calls are in addition to the regular calls that have been conducted throughout the last 7 months.
 
As far as a strategy for testing, we have been advised that the CDC does not recommend universal testing of all students and staff as a prerequisite to returning to school. CDC guidance, which has been cited by MDH, notes that a system may consider testing strategies for schools in communities with moderate, higher, and highest risk of transmission and for specific contacts within a school. This is all laid out in the CDC guidance on testing in schools that can be utilized by individual systems to address testing needs in their community.

In terms of a plan for vaccine coordination, the Governor recently released an initial plan for the distribution of the vaccine once one is available. Conversations are ongoing between health experts on how best to allocate those resources. The Maryland Health Department and MSDE will continue to provide updates to the Local Superintendents as this situation advances.

I certainly look forward to the relevant presentations and discussions that we will have over the next two days. With that, I’d like to end with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

As I said at the beginning of my comments, let’s keep moving forward and return students gradually and safely to in-person instruction. The stakes could not be higher. I’d be happy to address any questions before we move on to the next presentation.



OCTOBER 1, 2020 UPDATE

Update on Child Care Capacity


Remarks by Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.

  • Thank you Governor and good afternoon. It’s great to be with you all today.
  • Early in September, the Governor announced that Maryland had entered the initial phase of Stage 3, and the week prior, as a result of improved COVID-19 health metrics, we announced that every local school system in Maryland is authorized to begin reopening for in-person learning.

  • Thankfully, our COVID-19 metrics in Maryland remain in a very positive position and we continue to encourage local school systems to bring students back safely for in-person instruction in light of those numbers.

  • For the last six months, capacity limits have been in place for child care providers as a mitigation tool to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In working with the Maryland Department of Health, we have seen very few positive COVID cases in our child care facilities, likely due to the rigorous health and safety guidance implemented by the child care community from the beginning of the pandemic.

  • I want to also thank the child care providers, teachers and staff for their dedicated service to our children and families.  They are certainly heroes.

  • When the capacity limit for child care programs was increased in June from 10 to 15 individuals per room, the state did not see a spike in cases within child care programs, even as more providers reopened their facilities.

  • At this time, more than 82 percent of child care providers have reopened. However, with most school systems remaining in a period of virtual learning or in a hybrid model, we understand that the demand for available child care remains very high.

  • Therefore, today I am announcing that child care providers are now able to return to the full teacher to child ratios and capacities for which they are licensed.

  • Today’s announcement means that child care centers can now serve up to 20 three- and four-year olds in a room with a ratio of 1 teacher to 10 students and up to 30 school-age students with a ratio of 1 teacher to 15 students.

  • Of course child care providers must continue to adhere to federal and state guidance on health and safety protocols, as they have successfully done to this point.

  • Hopefully this action will assist in limiting the many unregulated and illegal child care operators that have sprung up in recent months such as “pandemic pods,” where there are no criminal background checks, no oversight, and parents cannot be sure that their children are in a safe environment.

  • Licensed child care programs interested in reopening may contact their licensing specialist at MSDE and parents and guardians in need of child care may contact LOCATE: Child Care at (877) 261-0060, or through the LOCATE webpage, which is available on MSDE's webpage.

  • Reopened programs will receive a one-time grant of $800 for family child care providers and $1,600 for center-based child care providers. These grants will be available only through Oct. 31.

  • MSDE is also providing $1,000 in start-up grants to eligible, new family home child care providers in an effort to bolster new small businesses.

  • We have heard very clearly from many parents and providers who have written and called me, that we needed to return to licensed capacity to meet the needs of working families and prevent the closure of child care centers once it could be done safely.

  • I am hopeful this announcement effectively complements local school system's efforts to bring students back into the classroom and provides working families with more access to safe child care and programs.



SEPTEMBER 24, 2020 UPDATE

Update on Fall High School Athletics, September 24, 2020



Remarks by Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.

Good Afternoon Governor Hogan, and thank you for your continued support and leadership in the recovery efforts in the State of Maryland.

We have had the great pleasure today of traveling to schools across the State to witness firsthand how school systems are making in-person and hybrid models of learning work effectively in spite of the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, and today was another tremendous example of that.

I remain incredibly impressed and grateful to those who have worked so hard to get our children back into classrooms in the safest manner possible, and I look forward to continuing my travels to various schools around the State to observe the innovative ways that schools are engaging with students.

To that end, I do want to briefly discuss the nature of high school athletics today. The MSDE and the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) have heard loudly and clearly from members of the school communities across the State that there is a desire for more options as it relates to fall sports.

On June 10, 2020, I announced opportunities for all local school systems to begin bringing students back into classrooms.  Among those opportunities was the ability for high school sports to begin conditioning and training.

The importance of that decision was to ensure our student-athletes were being engaged for their mental health, physical well-being, having social interactions, and profiting from the intangible benefits found in athletic participation. Many school systems took advantage of this prior to the start of the academic year.   

These opportunities have continued to exist for student-athletes based on the initiative of the MPSSAA to request specific waiver regulations from the State Board of Education on June 23, 2020.

With the State Board of Education’s approval, the MPSSAA on July 7, 2020, released a return to play guidance document requiring each local school system to assemble a Return to Play Committee.  The guidance issued by the MPSSAA provided health and safety measures to gradually return students to participation through the plans developed by each local school system’s Return to Play Committee.   

To date, many systems have announced plans to bring back students onto school campuses for in-person athletic opportunities this fall.

After recent discussions with the State Board of Education, the 24 local school system Superintendents, the Executive Director of the MPSSAA, stakeholders, and parents, I am taking the following steps to permit more opportunities for student engagement in interscholastic athletics.

Today, I am announcing that: 
  • All school systems shall, as soon as possible, provide conditioning and training opportunities using the current available options provided by the MPSSAA.
  • On October 7, 2020, all local school systems may begin formal fall sport season practices in preparation for a competition season which will begin on October 27.  All practices and preparation should be in accordance with COMAR required practice regulations.  Golf competitions may begin immediately on October 7.
  • In addition, I am expanding the seasonal competition timeframes as previously announced for all winter and spring sports within this plan.
  • Local school systems who choose not to restart the fall sport season on October 7, may use the Second Semester Plan Option as previously announced.
  • A full explanation of the available timeframes and opportunities will be released to local school systems and posted on the MPSSAA website, as soon as this press conference is over.

Each local school system as I said, can select whichever option best addresses the conditions in their jurisdiction, but we encourage systems that have and are continuing to bring students back into schools to consider allowing athletics to resume.

Obviously, the health protocols for safe athletic activities outlined by the Maryland Department of Health and the MPSSAA, local health departments, and in the recovery plan for education must be strictly followed to ensure the safety and welfare of students.

High school sports and competition are deeply rooted in the fabric of our schools and communities.  The steps taken today are directly related to the needs of our students to be active and engaged for their physical, social, and social and emotional well-being.

These programs have a history of providing opportunities for all students and not just those with the economic capabilities to participate.

The mentorship, comradery, and daily structure with these experiences and what they provide not only supports our students’ academic success, but also has a generational history of reaching many at-risk youth, some of them struggling in their remote learning environment.

I would like to thank the Governor again for his leadership and the multi-agency response to COVID-19 that has placed the State of Maryland in the position to bring students back into classrooms and back onto the athletic fields and courts.

Thank you.



AUGUST 27, 2020 UPDATE

Fall 2020 Reopening of Maryland Schools

Remarks by Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.

Thank you, Governor.

Ensuring that our children return to school buildings safely as we continue to confront this pandemic is one of the greatest challenges facing our nation. It is impossible to ignore the impact - that not having students in the classroom - is having on every area of daily life.

It is our responsibility as a society, and as a State, to make sure that school buildings reopen safely for in-person instruction as soon as possible.

Earlier this week, the State Board of Education reviewed the reopening plans of all 24 local school systems for the upcoming school year and will continue to evaluate the implementation of each plan in coming weeks.

Next week, the State Board will discuss my recommendation on the minimum number of hours of real-time, face-to-face instruction that systems must provide to students during this initial period of virtual learning.

I believe that every child deserves to have a high-quality education every day of the school year.  That means 5 days a week and 6 hours a day.  I believe that during the time of virtual learning, at least 3.5 hours daily of that time - should be guided synchronously by a teacher.  Setting this standard is the only way to assure an equitable education for all children across our state. 

I have heard loud and clear from parents across the State, that what occurred this past spring is not acceptable and we can't allow that to happen again.  Parents of our at- risk children and our children with special needs have been especially consistent with their message that they need more direct instruction for their children. 

As the Governor has noted, in recent weeks our COVID numbers in the State have improved considerably.

Today, in light of those improving numbers and with these specific metrics provided by the Department of Health, I am strongly encouraging local school systems to reevaluate their mode of instruction by the end of the first quarter of the upcoming school year, especially if they have indicated that they are maintaining a virtual delivery system until January of 2021.

Given the metrics provided by the State Health Department, schools in the lowest-risk jurisdictions should be able to resume some form of in-person instruction for pre-K through high school students with proper social distancing, hygiene, face coverings, and other mitigation practices in place.

While adherence to these metrics for re-entry into classrooms are not considered requirements, I am strongly encouraging local school systems to utilize our improving numbers and the provided metrics as the driving force for the decision to return to school buildings.

At this point, 16 school systems have already announced their intentions to begin small group instruction at various points in the fall.

Many school systems have demonstrated tremendous leadership and initiative by bringing small groups of students back together in a safe environment.

In counties, like Calvert and Worcester over the summer, we saw how in-person instruction can be provided to small groups of students during the pandemic. We saw photos of desks at a distance, masks being worn by all students, outdoor breaks for students from mask wearing and limited capacity in the classroom.

The State stands ready to assist school systems that make the decision to bring students back in-person, and 10 million dollars in grant funding will be available for systems who are able to move towards in-person instruction at the end of the first marking period.

Health and safety precautions must remain in place once we begin to bring more students back into schools, and school systems should continue to work in conjunction with local health officials to monitor trends in the metrics and any outbreaks at area schools.

As it relates to the immediate situation regarding schools and child care, every local school system has made the decision to begin the year virtually.

This has understandably created an additional and immediate need for available child care. Currently, more than 78% of child care providers across the State have reopened their facilities at this time, and assisting in that reopening while expediting the licensing process for providers is one of the State Department of Education’s primary goals.

We have received countless requests to raise the capacity restrictions on child care programs and expand the number of children that are eligible to attend for the beginning of this school year.

However, it would be illogical to deny children the opportunity to return to the classroom only to increase the number of children congregating in another location, essentially serving as a de facto replacement for a school environment.

As school systems reconsider their decisions to return to in-person instruction, we will also continue to reassess whether we can increase the capacity in child care classrooms.

The Governor and I will travel to different school sites in Maryland in the coming weeks to observe systems that are bringing small groups of students back into a safe and educationally effective environment.  I look forward to greeting our students and educators in the coming months and wish every one of our 900 thousand students a healthy, safe and productive school year.

Thank you.

November 13, 2020



JULY 22, 2020 UPDATE

Fall 2020 Reopening of Maryland Schools

Remarks by Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.

Thank you, Governor Hogan. Good afternoon.

From the beginning, even as we were suddenly closing school buildings to protect our students, teachers and communities, we have always been working toward the goal of safely reopening.

As a lifelong educator, I know that every child is born with inherent greatness and that the “school” learning journey helps children fully realize that potential.  What happens in school buildings is an essential part of our children’s development on so many levels: academic, social-emotional, and nutritional.  These can never be fully replaced by a virtual environment.

We want to get our students back to school as soon as possible for in-person instruction, and this should be the driving goal and the basis for all of our decisions. Public health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree.

However, the imminent safety and health of students and staff MUST, and always will be, the first priority.

In May, through collaboration with local systems and stakeholders, we released our Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education, which follows the State’s overall recovery plan and the governor’s executive orders.

Under our blueprint, local systems have until August 14 to develop and submit education recovery plans for review by the state board.

Today, I want to update Marylanders about the protocols and guidelines we expect to institute going forward.

In March, it was a public health imperative for the State to close all schools in the immediate emergency phase addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, with the state firmly in recovery, local systems will have the flexibility to determine, in consultation with their local health officers, how they will open, and which groups of students and staff will be able to re-enter buildings.

Continuing in Stage 2 of Recovery, just as schools could begin limited in-person summer instruction, schools can choose to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall.

Depending on conditions in their locality, school systems may be more restrictive than the requirements outlined in the State Recovery Plan.  

Some systems have begun to lay out a path to begin the year all-virtual, and some plan to move forward with a ‘hybrid’ approach. Our job is to help systems succeed and keep staff and students safe, regardless of which path they choose.

Within the framework of local control, the state will set a series of guardrails for school systems.

First, all systems must follow CDC guidelines for schools, which stress the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and cloth face coverings. Face coverings must be worn by all staff and students, particularly when physical distancing is not possible. We cannot stress this enough.

Second, all school systems must adhere to protocols instituted by state health officials for addressing an outbreak. Remember that an outbreak is defined as at least one laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19.

These protocols, which we are releasing today, stress several elements, including communication, and ensuring that a process is in place to notify the school community of a positive test and work with the local health department to activate contact tracing procedures.

Schools should provide written notification to all identified contacts, and how long they should remain in quarantine.

The school should follow instructions from the local health department for all matters regarding quarantine, exclusion and return to school for persons with a positive test for COVID-19 and those who had close contact.

Third, all school systems must meet a series of benchmarks before reopening, including:
  • Incorporate equity as a component in the local recovery plan;
  • Establish local education recovery stakeholder groups;
  • Identify learning gaps and instructional placement of students;
  • Follow and maintain curricular frameworks and MD College and Career Ready Standards;
  • Adhere to components of IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and ADA;
  • Adopt and follow health procedures outlined by the MSDE, MDH, and CDC, including cleaning and sanitization;
  • Ensure safe transportation for all students;
  • Develop a system for tracking attendance;
  • And follow the Maryland Public Secondary Sports Athletic Association guidance for interscholastic athletics and activities.

As we reimagine our schools this fall, we remain committed to building a system that will deliver education safely and effectively to each and every student with educational equity and educational justice as the cornerstones.

This includes a special focus on special education, and emergency school meal programs to ensure that no child goes hungry, and addressing the persistent digital divide.

I want to thank the governor for his commitment to ensuring that we maximize the use of federal funding to help those schools and students most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, these funds ensure that more students will have access to remote learning and the expansion of targeted tutoring initiatives for at-risk students.

We know that long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal with these resources is to give local school systems the support and flexibility to focus on and prioritize students most impacted during the crisis.

As always, we will be resolute in our approach on equity – providing intense learning opportunities to those who need it most.

To address the digital divide, $100 million is dedicated to equipping students with up-to-date devices and connectivity. Another $100 million is invested in tutoring and learning programs to address learning loss due to time away from direct instruction and teacher intervention.

To enhance broadband access for Maryland students, $10 million is allocated to the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband, which will construct a wireless education network in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, and on the Eastern Shore. In total, the Governor has now committed $20 million in CARES Act funding to expand rural broadband and an additional $5 million for urban broadband.

With the inclusion of  $45 million from the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, we have committed a total of more than $255 million in CARES Act funding for education priorities. Part of the GEER funding includes a competitive grant opportunity, which is available on our web site under COVID resources.

I fully appreciate the wide range of input we have received from our stakeholders, educators, parents and teachers.  The reopening of schools is a deeply personal issue: I hear every day from those who passionately demand that schools be fully reopened, as well as those who are adamant in appeals for only virtual learning.

In striking a balance and offering local flexibility, we offer an approach that we hope will lead to more in-person school time.

What happens in the weeks ahead is largely dependent upon each of us – our actions and continued diligence to social distance, taking all necessary precautions to keep each other safe.  It means wearing masks, washing hands, and being honest about health assessments, staying home and quarantining when necessary.

Parents and guardians will be our strongest allies by conducting daily morning temperature checks and providing extra vigilance to help ensure that healthy children are boarding school buses and entering school buildings.

As we experienced in the spring, parents will be left, at times, with the impossible task of coordinating work schedules with virtual learning.

It has often been said that it takes a village, and again, we will need to be reliant on: family members, child care providers, youth centers, and other partners.

I am confident that if we stay on our current track, we can and will return to normal operations in the coming year.

Again, we will rely on every available resource to ensure that Maryland’s children have full access to the quality, effective and safe education they deserve.

The task of educating every child in Maryland is as complex as the world they will face.  It requires the combined efforts of parents, students, teachers, administrators, government, business and stakeholders.

Together, we must support, protect, inspire, and empower.

We are Maryland strong, and we will continue moving forward together.

Thank you.

Guidance for Use of Cloth Face Coverings in SchoolsPDF document link to Guidance for Use of Cloth Face Coverings in Schools

Updated August 4, 2020

Response to a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 and Persons with COVID-19-like Illness in SchoolsPDF document link to Response to a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 and Persons with COVID-19-like Illness in Schools
Updated July 23, 2020



JULY 2, 2020 UPDATE

Thank You: A Special Message to Maryland’s Teachers



JUNE 10, 2020 UPDATE

Dr. Salmon Governor’s Press Conference Remarks 6.10.2020

By: Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D., State Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Salmon Governor’s Press Conference Remarks 6.10.2020

Thank you Governor for your continued leadership. Today I am excited and optimistic to share some positive news about moving education forward in Maryland.  In light of the encouraging data we have seen in recent weeks that allowed the Governor to move the State into stage two of the Roadmap to Recovery, the education community has been able to move alongside the rest of the State.

School systems will now be able to bring small groups of students and staff into school buildings for summer school programming. After consultation with leading public health experts, that would mean having between 10-15 individuals maximum at a time in rooms within school buildings.

Students with the most intense learning needs are the ones that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, and without an intense focus on these students they would be among the last to recover.

Therefore, I strongly encourage local school systems to focus any return to school buildings for summer instruction on those that have been most deeply impacted by the pandemic or those that have struggled with distance learning.

This likely includes younger children, students who are the farthest behind academically, students who lack the capacity to work independently, and students without the proper resources to participate in distance learning effectively.

Long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened during this COVID-19 crisis. Now is the time for school systems to engage their equity plans. This is required by a regulation that I recommended and that was passed by the State Board of Education, so that these groups of students are our first priority in the recovery plan for Maryland education.

It is incumbent upon State and local leaders in education to maintain the emphasis on equity and action for those most affected by current events.

Additionally, all nonpublic special education schools may reopen to serve students with disabilities. These schools may begin bringing small groups of children back into their buildings under the same capacity parameters as public school systems. As one of the first programs to reopen following extended school closures, Maryland’s nonpublic special education schools may develop a model for replication across the State during this recovery period.

This reopening allows for instruction to many students with disabilities through an alternative service delivery model, including opportunities for face-to-face instruction. Eligible programs that opt to reopen will need to develop a recovery plan aligned with the new service delivery system. This plan will require thoughtful planning and intentional collaboration from all parties to ensure the continuum of teaching and learning and the smooth transition of students returning to a physical school building. Health and safety protocols and procedures that are in accordance with State guidelines must be addressed prior to reopening.

In the coming days as we move forward with the state’s recovery, all child care providers may reopen as long as they follow the health department protocols listed on the MSDE website and also adhere to class size restrictions.

We are expanding the number of individuals that child care providers can have in one room to a maximum of 15 total. This will assist both providers and members of the community as many parents and families return to work.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, local school systems and MSDE have consistently maintained student access to nutritious meals with more than 13 million meals served since the start of school closures.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended several waivers through the end of summer to include non-congregate meals, meal service time flexibility and allowing parents and guardians to pick up meals on behalf of their children.

As we transition to a more familiar and routine Summer Meal Service Program, the level of operation including number and types of meals served, as well as number of locations, is a local decision.  MSDE is incredibly grateful for the hard work and effort of our local food service personnel and their operations teams.

My team at the State Department of Education continues to collect feedback from the stakeholders and local districts on items for inclusion within the Maryland Together: Recovery Plan for Education.  A significant portion of the updated plan includes recommendations and options that can be implemented in local school systems within our now stage two.

The revised plan, which has been posted on the MSDE website last night, includes several requirements that school systems must follow as they begin to return students and staff back into the buildings.

Each school system must establish a local stakeholder recovery group that is representative of their schools and the community, and their equity plans need to be reflected through their recovery plans. Systems and schools must determine where their students are instructionally, identify the gaps in learning, and prepare a path for instructional success and recovery. The Maryland College and Career Ready Standards and all state frameworks for each content area must continue to be followed. A system must also be in place to track student attendance and engagement in distance learning activities.

Local school systems also must be following federal provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as all health and safety protocols developed by MSDE and the Maryland Department of Health for daily cleaning and collection of materials, as well as procedures for if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID.

The safe transportation of students is also critically important, and the State’s recovery plan outlines a number of vital steps to assist school systems as they make decisions on how to provide transportation to students in this current environment.

School systems are currently in the process of working through and releasing their plans for summer learning opportunities. All local recovery plans for what stage three would look like in the fall will come later in the summer with an outline from the school system on how they are going to communicate the information in their plans to the community. MSDE will be reviewing each to ensure that they meet the requirements outlined in the State’s education recovery plan.

Finally, I am announcing today that outdoor high school sports may resume practice and training activities within the same guidelines that were previously announced for youth sports programs by the Governor in May. Any and all sporting activities must align with the health and safety parameters outlined by MSDE and local school systems, some of which are detailed out in our education recovery plan.

As the unprecedented 2019-2020 school year draws to a conclusion, I want to first congratulate all of our high school graduates who are graduating or have already graduated.  It has been very heartfelt to see the different ways that local systems are honoring our seniors – from parades on the Boardwalk to outdoor ceremonies. I want to congratulate and thank these students, because they will be the ones who will carry us forward and deal with the issues that we are currently facing in the future.

Thank you to the superintendents, administrators, teachers, school support staff, child care providers, parents and all other members of the community who have stepped up in these remarkable times to do their best to keep our children safe, engaged, and learning.

I am eager to work with all of those in the community to move education forward in the coming months, stronger than ever before. Thank you very much.


 

APRIL 21, 2020 UPDATE

Message to Maryland’s Child Care Providers

By: Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D., State Superintendent of Schools

On behalf of the Maryland State Department of Education, I want to thank Maryland’s child care providers, teachers and staff who have agreed to deliver services for those essential persons and first responders on the front lines combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize the financial and health risks you are taking to help stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Without you, doctors and nurses could not treat patients, paramedics could not respond to emergencies, law enforcement officers could not maintain order, grocery store clerks could not stock shelves with necessities, and drivers could not deliver supplies. Child care providers are the foundation of Maryland’s pandemic mitigation and recovery efforts, and we are grateful to you.

We understand there are many questions about the current invoicing and payment process. MSDE continues to process payments for 2,880 child care providers participating in the Child Care Scholarship (CCS) program based on child enrollment, not attendance. For those child care providers who have stepped forward and agreed to provide child care through the Essential Personnel Child Care (EPCC) or the Essential Persons School Age (EPSA) programs, we are working with our CCS vendor to process invoices as quickly possible while ensuring CCS payments are also processed. To meet the challenge, the CCS vendor has doubled its invoice processing team to 50 persons strong. MSDE’s team is working tirelessly side-by-side with our vendor to verify and expedite all payments and apologize for any delays some may be experiencing. MSDE will continue to work to ensure child care providers have the financial and other resources needed to thrive. If you have any questions, please contact us through this invoice assistance google form.

Our state’s child care providers will be vital to our recovery efforts and the reestablishment of a strong and thriving economy. MSDE is evaluating ways in which the $45 million in Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding can be used to support child care or essential persons and assist child care providers once the state of emergency is lifted.

Thank you for keeping Maryland’s children safe and healthy every day.



APRIL 17, 2020 UPDATE


Special Announcement: School Closure Extended to May 15

After extensive consultation with the State Board of Education and leading public health experts in the State, I am extending the closure of schools through May 15th.  With regards to the remainder of the school year and summer, we will use this time to examine every option, and continue to develop a long-term plan for recovery.


In a very short timeframe, school systems have continued to increase their digital presence and capabilities to provide learning opportunities to all students. All school systems must submit their continuity of learning plans to MSDE. The plans include an overall description of how systems will deliver continuity of learning to all students:

  • A description of the roles and responsibilities of district staff, school administrators, teachers, instructional assistants, students, and parents.
  • A sample teacher and student day.
  • A plan of accountability for how systems will monitor and assess student performance.
  • A description of how the school system plans to address equity for special education students, English learners, students with academic needs, and homeless students.
  • A section that identifies the professional development plan for staff. And a description of the resources currently available for students.

We are helping school systems to obtain the resources, such as additional devices, platforms for learning, and expanded broadband capabilities, that they need to carry out their plans in an equitable and meaningful way. We are hopeful that the additional $207 million dollars in funding from the federal CARES Act, 90 percent of which will go directly to local school systems, will help to address gaps in the availability of these resources.

After speaking with local superintendents this past week, school systems have also started to develop plans for additional digital learning and the recovery of any lost instructional time in the form of expanding summer school programs.  State and local school officials are preparing for a number of scenarios depending on when our educators and students would be able to re-enter school buildings. At the Department, we have started to develop a long-term plan for recovery and will actively seek to engage stakeholders throughout the State as the plan comes to fruition.

I understand the impact that the uncertainty of this situation has created for everyone in our school communities, especially for groups like our high school seniors. We want seniors and their families to have the opportunity to recognize their wonderful accomplishments from their time in high school and receive their diplomas. Local superintendents have been working on a number of creative alternatives to ensure our high school seniors receive the recognition they deserve.

I would like to take a moment to give recognition to all of our local school superintendents for their unwavering tenacity and outstanding leadership during this unprecedented time.  Additionally, I want to thank the teachers, for their hard work and flexibility as they provide instruction to our over 900,000 students across the State.  I want to recognize the school system staff that provide support services to students such as counselors, psychologists and specialists – as their work is especially crucial during this time of uncertainty.  There are also some unsung heroes operating in our schools and they are the food service workers, custodial and maintenance staff and many other employees that have been working 24/7 to make and deliver food, clean and sanitize and keep our school’s infrastructure in great shape.  Thank you for your dedication and tireless efforts.

We continue to provide child care services to essential personnel at more than 3,700 State-funded sites across Maryland. Over 25,000 children of essential personnel are enrolled in these sites, and the State has the capacity to serve an additional 20,000 if the need should arise. Eligible families can continue to identify locations where child care services are available at licensed child and family care centers, as well as a number of YMCAs, senior centers, and Boys and Girls Clubs, through the LOCATE hotline service and through comprehensive lists available on the State Department of Education website. I am pleased that the State of Maryland has received an additional 45.8 million dollars from the federal CARES Act to support the maintenance of child care programs and continuation of child care services for essential personnel in our State during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we celebrate the Week of the Child, I want to thank all those individuals providing child care who have dedicated their lives to children. You are all champions  and we thank you for stepping up during this crisis.

Challenges remain as we take these unprecedented and swift steps to continue learning for students, and I want to thank our educators, parents, and students who have exhibited incredible patience and stepped up tremendously throughout this difficult and unprecedented time.

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes, it is a catalyst … a spark that creates extraordinary results. Let’s continue to stay positive and work together while we are physically apart.



MARCH 26, 2020 UPDATE

All Child Care Providers to be Closed by the end of the day Friday, March 27th Except Those Serving Essential Personnel

Beginning at the end of the day on Friday, March 27, 2020, all child care programs are to be closed.

During this State of Emergency, child care programs have been established by the State to serve only designated essential personnel.

These programs are at no cost to designated essential personnel. Eligible programs may be found on the MSDE website at earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org or by using the LOCATE: Child Care resource, a telephone service that is available by phone Monday - Friday at 877-261-0060 between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM.

Please see the list of designated essential personnel identified in the Governor’s March 25, 2020 Executive Order.

The children of essential personnel attending the State-funded child care programs will be kept at an appropriate distance from each other with ratios of one teacher to nine children and smaller class sizes for younger children.  

Parents/guardians are strongly urged to keep children at home as the first and best option to protect them from the virus; it should be noted in the Governor's March 13, 2020 Executive Order, licensing regulations were relaxed to allow for Family, Friend and Neighbor care for five or fewer students.

If closed licensed child care programs are willing to provide child care to children of essential personnel, they may reopen beginning March 30, 2020, with the following requirements:

  • Programs must apply with their Regional Licensing Specialists to be approved before they begin serving eligible families.
  • These programs may only reopen after a thorough cleaning has been conducted.
  • They must only serve the children of essential personnel.


Parents and caregivers of essential personnel may call one of the following numbers for additional information:
410-767-0335
410-767-0583
410-767-7798
410-767-7805