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Here’s how Maryland jurisdictions are handling the academic school year amid the coronavirus pandemic

Maryland’s state schools superintendent announced July 22 that schools should set a goal of returning students to classrooms by the end of the year, but allowed districts to make their own decision on virtual versus in-person instruction when fall classes begin.

School systems can choose to implement a more restrictive recovery plan than the state’s, but the driving goal should be returning students to in-person instruction, Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said.

With coronavirus cases rising swiftly in Maryland in early November, the prospect that schools will reopen their doors to thousands more students later this month seemed to be diminishing.

Here’s what the school systems are planning:

Anne Arundel

Anne Arundel County closed all of its in-person classes for small groups of students Nov. 5 and delayed the start of a wider expansion of classes. On Nov. 9 it announced its decision to suspend athletics.

On Nov. 5, the school board postponed reopening schools for hybrid learning until at least the start of the second semester in February, as the county’s coronavirus case rate hit 15.3 two days earlier.

Last month the board approved a plan to bring the youngest learners back to school starting Nov. 16, for two days of in-person instruction per week. But the rate of cases has risen since then.

Baltimore City

In the face of rising coronavirus cases, Baltimore City Public School leaders will push forward with reopening of school buildings for the first time in eight months, while scaling back the number from 44 to 27.

The decision, announced by schools CEO Sonja Santelises at Nov. 10′s school board meeting, will make the city one of the region’s few jurisdictions that hasn’t delayed reopening schools or moved entirely online.

Santelises said that, on the advice of health experts, she would allow 1,200 students to attend those 27 schools, including two schools for special needs. She also announced the launch of a new mobile testing laboratory operated by University of Maryland that can travel to schools and test students and staff with symptoms, providing results in about 48 hours.

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa and Dr. Charles Callahan, who heads testing at the Baltimore Convention Center for the University of Maryland, spoke at the school board meeting in favor of keeping schools open.

Santelises said the action “really aligns with our commitment to expand in-person learning slowly and gradually as we have done this past summer.” She said less than 2% of the school system’s total enrollment will return to schools.

Baltimore County

The Baltimore County Board of Education has directed staff to craft a detailed plan for hybrid education during the spring semester, appearing to abandon another idea to return the school system’s youngest learners to school buildings by Nov. 30.

Board members voted Nov. 10 in favor of a measure that directs staff to create the plan for hybrid learning next semester by Dec. 22, building on the school system’s reopening plan that was released in August.

County school board members asked staff several weeks ago for a similarly detailed plan for returning students in kindergarten through second grade to school buildings by the end of November in hopes of providing families with a window into their school reopening strategy.

Board members heard the details of that plan Nov. 10, but took no formal action. The plan includes a “tandem” model of learning in which students who have opted for in-person instruction would attend school in small groups at different times of the week in hopes of mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Darryl L. Williams and administrators discouraged elected leaders from sticking to the targeted Nov. 30 reopening, stating that schools could bring back students by Dec. 14 if COVID-19 case counts trend lower.


Carroll County’s public high school students will be able to begin hybrid learning as planned Nov. 13, but if the number of COVID-19 cases in the county and its positivity rate haven’t dropped back into a safer range, hybrid learning is likely to be suspended next week.

The Board of Education voted unanimously at Nov. 12′s meeting that Carroll County Public Schools continue with the hybrid model for all levels through Nov. 17, that the board will meet again Nov. 18, and that if COVID-19 numbers have not improved, the county will return at that time, system-wide, to limited in-person instruction, or none at all.

The “B” cohort of high school students are able to go in-person on Thursday and Friday; the “A” cohort on Monday and Tuesday. Elementary and middle school students returned in hybrid fashion on Oct. 19. But the number of daily COVID-19 cases in Carroll County has roughly tripled since then.


All Harford students now will return home for virtual school beginning Nov. 13 — with one exception, Superintendent Sean Bulson said Nov. 9.

The school system decided to resume a fully virtual model after new corona-virus cases in the county spiked to their highest levels since the pandemic began there.

On Nov. 4, schools began bringing back third graders through fifth graders for a once-a-week hybrid model. Kindergarten through second grade students returned under the once-a-week model Oct. 19, and middle and high school students had been scheduled to return starting Nov. 16.

Some students began the school year five days a week in Learning Support Centers set up around the county, and special education programs had welcomed students back as well.

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