[Editor's Note: On Tuesday, July 21, Baltimore County Public Schools also made the official decision to continue online learning through January 2021.]
Baltimore City Public Schools will open the 2020-2021 school year virtually, delaying the start of a planned hybrid in-person option until later this fall, school system CEO Sonja Santelises announced in a public letter today addressed to parents, students, and others.
“The past four months have been unlike anything we have experienced before in Baltimore City Public Schools,” Santelises wrote in her letter. “We closed school buildings to slow the spread of a global pandemic, and the heavy use of online learning and video contact with teachers forced each of us to adjust in ways we never dreamed. I am grateful for all your support and willingness to fight alongside us to make sure each student has an opportunity to continue their learning.”
Baltimore City follows similar decisions made by public schools in Howard, Harford, and Prince George's counties last week amid once-again rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Maryland. Students in those counties will continue distance learning at least through January 2021.
Anne Arundel County Public Schools also announced Monday afternoon that they will be providing online-only instruction during for the first semester of the 2020-2021 calendar.
Meanwhile, Baltimore County and Carroll County public schools are still considering reopening schedules. Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Darryl Williams told The Baltimore Sun last week that he is leaning toward remote learning with a phased-in return for the 2020-2021 academic year. “We’re looking at safety first as a driving factor,” Williams said.
The agenda for Baltimore County’s Tuesday Board of Education meeting includes discussion on the school district's scheduled reopening plan for the fall.
Santelises, who said Baltimore City Public Schools will provide an update on further plans by Oct. 16., also proposed a calendar change to the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners that the first day of school be moved back Sept. 8, following the Labor Day weekend, to allow additional time for professional learning for staff.
“City Schools strongly believes some form of in-person learning is critical for a student’s academic success, mental health, and emotional well-being,” Santelises said. “However, we do not want to rush to act based on your recent feedback, as well as health trends in our community and nationally. This moment is a vital time, and preparation for students and families is important.”
To date, Maryland, which has the 10th highest per capita death rate in the country, has lost 3,252 citizens to the novel coronavirus—as well as at least another 130 “probable” fatalities. After cases and deaths shot up dramatically this spring before peaking and ultimately falling after stay-at-home-orders were enacted, Maryland’s positive cases have begun climbing again after reopening plans were phased-in.
According to the most recent modeling, the death toll in Maryland is expected to top 4,200 citizens by Nov. 1.
In a thread on Twitter Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan requested the Trump Administration extend the national public health emergency, which is set to expire this Saturday. He also called for other federal action, including an appeal to Congress for educational funding and the need to pass a coronavirus relief package that provides funding needed by state and local governments whose budgets and payrolls are facing dramatic cuts as the economy continues to struggle.