Contentious Push for Reopening of Schools in Maryland

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Jehan Idsassi, Staff Writer

On January 21, 2021, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and State Superintendent Karen Salmon called for immediate efforts to open schools at least part-time no later than March 1, 2021. 

Governor Hogan justified his plans by pointing out that health metrics throughout Maryland have begun to show improvement over the past few months. Although Governor Hogan believes that virtual learning for Maryland students has been an adequate alternative overall, he knows that there are many students who are not able to effectively learn from it, either due to health issues or financial issues regarding Wi-fi, technology devices, etc. While Governor Hogan acknowledges that opening Maryland schools full-time is not possible at the moment, he wants to go in that direction. “Our children simply cannot afford any more endless roadblocks or any more moving of the goalposts,” Hogan said at a recent news briefing. “The time has come to get all of our kids back into the classrooms and to reopen our schools.”

He, alongside Superintendent Salmon, is pressuring all of the 24 school systems in Maryland to first begin with hybrid learning — a system where a small group of students attends school one or two days out of the week — then slowly pursue full in-person learning. Ten counties in Maryland have already begun hybrid learning. 

However, for most counties, such as Prince George’s County, hybrid learning has not started. For schools in these counties, fear of the harmful effects of the pandemic has offset the pressure to return back to school. Eleanor Roosevelt High School (ERHS) junior Maha Idsassi says that she is “not ready” for schools to reopen, especially since we have been in lockdown for more than ten months. Idsassi feels more unsure about the reopening of school, explaining, “Reopening schools at this time seems unsafe at this current time. It also will be something to be adjusted to as we have been doing remote learning for a great period of time so actually going back to school physically will be something to get used to.” 

Many of Eleanor Roosevelt’s teachers feel the same way. A teacher at Eleanor Roosevelt High School (they wanted to stay anonymous) stated that Maryland schools reopening seems like a “waste of time and effort.” The teacher added, “I feel as though it is still very unsafe to send students and teachers/staff back to school. Many students not only at ERHS but in many other schools are getting sick so imagine putting them back into a public safe during a pandemic. Does not sound good right? Overall, many of us may be eager to return; however, we will face consequences for them in the end. Thus, optimizing for hybrid learning does not seem like a solution for our education system in the state of Maryland.”

Due to conflicting opinions and unclear factors, the decision to reopen Maryland schools remains uncertain. The majority of students and teachers/staff members of many schools such as ERHS feel as if it is unsafe to return back, but Governor Hogan and Superintendent Salmon have expressed opposite sentiments. Consequently, the ongoing battle for reopening schools in Maryland, whether it is hybrid learning or in-person learning, is a tentative matter.