Moving Forward with Covid-19: What’s Next for Maryland Schools?

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by Lori Morrow

Lori Morrow is a board member of the Prince George’s Advocates for Better Schools and was appointed as the Parent Member of the Maryland State Board of Education in March 2020. The opinions expressed here are her own.

Two months ago, I was sworn in as a member of the Maryland State Board of Education under the most unusual circumstances: 6 feet apart from the county clerk, barely inside the front doors, with no family or friends as witnesses. In February, I expected much of my 3.5-year term to focus on the Kirwan Commission recommendations. Instead the Blueprint bill was recently vetoed by Governor Larry Hogan and the upcoming years will most likely be focused on Covid-19, school closures, the trauma in our communities, and how we move forward.

Distance learning has been a monumental feat across the state.  I commend the teachers, school staff, parents, and students who shifted rapidly in mid-March to make this happen, while also jumping into action to address issues of food insecurity, child care, and massive unemployment. Our public schools do so much more than teach curriculum, and this crisis has highlighted the important role they serve.

There are only a few weeks left of the 2019-20 school year, and the biggest question is, “What comes next?” There is no single answer, as each of the 24 school districts develops a plan for their county. However, I am fairly confident in saying that school will not look “normal” when it starts back up in the fall. We are facing a school year where parents and volunteers may not be able to host events or assist inside the buildings in the way we have before. While public health will dictate many circumstances, we must take the time to look at how we can be involved. This is a time to remember advocacy is a core mission of National PTA and many PTOs. We must work together with school leaders to ensure all of Maryland’s children get the education they deserve.

What can parents and community members do?

  1. Read the Maryland Recovery Plan for Education. These are the overarching options and guidelines that local districts are considering. Comments can be emailed to educationplan.msde@maryland.gov. The document is still in draft form and will continue to evolve with stakeholder input.
  1. Avoid rumors. The Maryland Recovery Plan does not outline specific dates or timelines. Check the Maryland rumors page or be sure to share information directly from school district or state websites.
  1. Start planning locally. It is okay to grieve for the events and activities we missed out on this school year, and those we may have to skip next year too. In-person meetings, back-to-school nights, and family events may not be possible. This is a time to get creative to find things we CAN do, and don’t forget to involve students in the brainstorming and planning too!
  1. Participate in feedback opportunities at all levels: school, district and state. Take advantage of any survey opportunities; share ideas with school and PTA leaders; and send constructive comments to district and state leaders. Solutions usually go farther than complaints.
  1. Stay active in PTA/PTO for next school year and continue to advocate as situations evolve. We may not have the same events or fundraisers, but parent voice will be even more important when we can’t meet in person.

For additional state resources and updates, visit the MSDE Covid-19 webpage: http://marylandpublicschools.org/newsroom/Pages/COVID-19/index.aspx

Maryland State Board of Education meetings are public meetings. Due to Covid-19, all meetings are currently being held virtually. Agendas and supporting documents are available online:  http://marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Pages/Meetings-2020.aspx

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