Maryland will extend school closures through April 24 to protect students and staff from coronavirus, which has sickened hundreds of people in the state.
Learning continuity plans are being developed. The state is still working with local school districts to see how any remote learning or continuing education could be carried out, State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon said.
Child care centers and day cares can remain open, with priority for essential personnel. A referral hotline is available for essential personnel, such as health care workers, who need child care: 1-877-261-0060. Salmon encouraged people to keep their children home unless absolutely necessary.
It's impossible to know at this point exactly when schools could reopen, Salmon said.
“We do not make this decision lightly, however with the challenges facing our state and our country, we have a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of our school communities and the communities at large," Salmon said at a press conference Wednesday.
"There's a lot of confusion and fear and anxiety and uncertainty right now," Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said. "There's nothing more important to us than your health, your wellbeing and your education."
Gov. Larry Hogan also urged President Donald Trump to declare a disaster for the state of Maryland. Such a declaration would allow funding to flow to local governments and nonprofits to aid unemployment insurance funds, mitigate hazards and help other emergency protections, Hogan said.
also directed anyone recently in New York to quarantine for at least 14 days in a press conference Wednesday.
Maryland schools closed starting on March 16, initially for two weeks, to protect students and staff as coronavirus spread through the state.
The number of coronavirus cases in Maryland continues to grow even as students stayed home. On Monday, March 16, 37 cases were diagnosed in the state. On Wednesday, the state reported that the number had risen to 423 cases with four deaths.
A Montgomery County Schools employee tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Tuesday. They did not develop symptoms until after school was suspended.
Montgomery County Schools said they were planning for an extension of school closures.
"We just have a lot of things that we don't know and we can't know right know," Superintendent Jack Smith said at a remote meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday.
Monifa McKnight, deputy superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, said that during the emergency closure from March 16-23, teachers were not expected to work but many checked in with students anyway.
Changes to the official school calendar are already in the works.
Montgomery County Schools have actively been preparing a long-range continuity of learning plan, which would allow students to continue learning even when school buildings are closed. Online tools, TV, telephone and hard-copy packets are under consideration for all students.
Prince George's County school administrators were also awaiting guidance from the state on continued closures, news partner WTOP reported.
“Our buildings and buses have all been cleaned, and they are ready to receive children, once the governor and our state superintendent has deemed it possible for them to return,” Goldson said, according to WTOP.
School officials also said they are assessing whether students have the technology to effectively learn from home and are planning to distribute devices if needed.