by Reade Fenner ‘22
As the 2020-21 school year begins, students and teachers are adjusting to the new online learning structure made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic plaguing the world. By an August 14 deadline imposed by the state, Montgomery County, alongside other Maryland counties, made the decision to move school online for the entire first semester. However, a few days before online school was scheduled to start, Governor Larry Hogan on August 27 announced that schools in Maryland are approved to return to in-person learning. Although Hogan is not requiring counties to open schools, in his statement he claims that there is no substitute for in-person learning and urges schools to find safe ways to incorporate classroom learning for the fall.
Hogan’s attempt to convince school districts in the state to open schools for in-person instruction is ill-timed. His decision to bring up this topic after every county in Maryland has already committed to online learning for the first semester puts a lot of pressure on schools to rearrange their plans. Suggesting that schools alter the plans they have spent months developing is unrealistic. It is easy for Hogan to sit back and ask schools to do this, dumping all the responsibility onto the counties. Teachers and other school staff have already spent the entire summer reshaping the school curriculum to fit an online format. How can Hogan expect school districts to completely change their plans mere days prior to the first day of school?
Not only are Hogan’s suggestions poorly timed, they are risky. Maryland coronavirus cases are steadily decreasing, but this positive trend is threatened by the start of flu season. Despite its existing vaccine, the flu virus infects hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. However, unlike the flu, there is no vaccine for coronavirus, so there is no telling the impact it will have during the fall months. Schools reopening would only endanger students and teachers during this season. Coronavirus cases in the United States are still increasing, with approximately 1,000 victims losing their lives daily. In Maryland, there are still more than 100,000 active cases, with four percent of tests for coronavirus coming back positive. Experts believe that in order to safely reopen schools, the percentage of residents who test positive should be below three percent. If counties allow students to return to school, the number of cases will only rise. Following Hogan’s advice and opening schools in the fall is not the right move for Maryland, and it is no surprise that every large public school district in the state is choosing to ignore him.