Updates from the State Superintendent

JULY 22, 2020 UPDATE

Fall 2020 Reopening of Maryland Schools

Remarks by Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.

Thank you, Governor Hogan. Good afternoon.

From the beginning, even as we were suddenly closing school buildings to protect our students, teachers and communities, we have always been working toward the goal of safely reopening.

As a lifelong educator, I know that every child is born with inherent greatness and that the “school” learning journey helps children fully realize that potential.  What happens in school buildings is an essential part of our children’s development on so many levels: academic, social-emotional, and nutritional.  These can never be fully replaced by a virtual environment.

We want to get our students back to school as soon as possible for in-person instruction, and this should be the driving goal and the basis for all of our decisions. Public health experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, agree.

However, the imminent safety and health of students and staff MUST, and always will be, the first priority.

In May, through collaboration with local systems and stakeholders, we released our Maryland Together: Maryland’s Recovery Plan for Education, which follows the State’s overall recovery plan and the governor’s executive orders.

Under our blueprint, local systems have until August 14 to develop and submit education recovery plans for review by the state board.

Today, I want to update Marylanders about the protocols and guidelines we expect to institute going forward.

In March, it was a public health imperative for the State to close all schools in the immediate emergency phase addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, with the state firmly in recovery, local systems will have the flexibility to determine, in consultation with their local health officers, how they will open, and which groups of students and staff will be able to re-enter buildings.

Continuing in Stage 2 of Recovery, just as schools could begin limited in-person summer instruction, schools can choose to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall.

Depending on conditions in their locality, school systems may be more restrictive than the requirements outlined in the State Recovery Plan.  

Some systems have begun to lay out a path to begin the year all-virtual, and some plan to move forward with a ‘hybrid’ approach. Our job is to help systems succeed and keep staff and students safe, regardless of which path they choose.

Within the framework of local control, the state will set a series of guardrails for school systems.

First, all systems must follow CDC guidelines for schools, which stress the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and cloth face coverings. Face coverings must be worn by all staff and students, particularly when physical distancing is not possible. We cannot stress this enough.

Second, all school systems must adhere to protocols instituted by state health officials for addressing an outbreak. Remember that an outbreak is defined as at least one laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19.

These protocols, which we are releasing today, stress several elements, including communication, and ensuring that a process is in place to notify the school community of a positive test and work with the local health department to activate contact tracing procedures.

Schools should provide written notification to all identified contacts, and how long they should remain in quarantine.

The school should follow instructions from the local health department for all matters regarding quarantine, exclusion and return to school for persons with a positive test for COVID-19 and those who had close contact.

Third, all school systems must meet a series of benchmarks before reopening, including:
  • Incorporate equity as a component in the local recovery plan;
  • Establish local education recovery stakeholder groups;
  • Identify learning gaps and instructional placement of students;
  • Follow and maintain curricular frameworks and MD College and Career Ready Standards;
  • Adhere to components of IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and ADA;
  • Adopt and follow health procedures outlined by the MSDE, MDH, and CDC, including cleaning and sanitization;
  • Ensure safe transportation for all students;
  • Develop a system for tracking attendance;
  • And follow the Maryland Public Secondary Sports Athletic Association guidance for interscholastic athletics and activities.

As we reimagine our schools this fall, we remain committed to building a system that will deliver education safely and effectively to each and every student with educational equity and educational justice as the cornerstones.

This includes a special focus on special education, and emergency school meal programs to ensure that no child goes hungry, and addressing the persistent digital divide.

I want to thank the governor for his commitment to ensuring that we maximize the use of federal funding to help those schools and students most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, these funds ensure that more students will have access to remote learning and the expansion of targeted tutoring initiatives for at-risk students.

We know that long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal with these resources is to give local school systems the support and flexibility to focus on and prioritize students most impacted during the crisis.

As always, we will be resolute in our approach on equity – providing intense learning opportunities to those who need it most.

To address the digital divide, $100 million is dedicated to equipping students with up-to-date devices and connectivity. Another $100 million is invested in tutoring and learning programs to address learning loss due to time away from direct instruction and teacher intervention.

To enhance broadband access for Maryland students, $10 million is allocated to the Governor’s Office of Rural Broadband, which will construct a wireless education network in Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, and on the Eastern Shore. In total, the Governor has now committed $20 million in CARES Act funding to expand rural broadband and an additional $5 million for urban broadband.

With the inclusion of  $45 million from the Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, we have committed a total of more than $255 million in CARES Act funding for education priorities. Part of the GEER funding includes a competitive grant opportunity, which is available on our web site under COVID resources.

I fully appreciate the wide range of input we have received from our stakeholders, educators, parents and teachers.  The reopening of schools is a deeply personal issue: I hear every day from those who passionately demand that schools be fully reopened, as well as those who are adamant in appeals for only virtual learning.

In striking a balance and offering local flexibility, we offer an approach that we hope will lead to more in-person school time.

What happens in the weeks ahead is largely dependent upon each of us – our actions and continued diligence to social distance, taking all necessary precautions to keep each other safe.  It means wearing masks, washing hands, and being honest about health assessments, staying home and quarantining when necessary.

Parents and guardians will be our strongest allies by conducting daily morning temperature checks and providing extra vigilance to help ensure that healthy children are boarding school buses and entering school buildings.

As we experienced in the spring, parents will be left, at times, with the impossible task of coordinating work schedules with virtual learning.

It has often been said that it takes a village, and again, we will need to be reliant on: family members, child care providers, youth centers, and other partners.

I am confident that if we stay on our current track, we can and will return to normal operations in the coming year.

Again, we will rely on every available resource to ensure that Maryland’s children have full access to the quality, effective and safe education they deserve.

The task of educating every child in Maryland is as complex as the world they will face.  It requires the combined efforts of parents, students, teachers, administrators, government, business and stakeholders.

Together, we must support, protect, inspire, and empower.

We are Maryland strong, and we will continue moving forward together.

Thank you.

Guidance for Use of Cloth Face Coverings in SchoolsPDF document link to Guidance for Use of Cloth Face Coverings in Schools

Updated August 4, 2020

Response to a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 and Persons with COVID-19-like Illness in SchoolsPDF document link to Response to a Laboratory Confirmed Case of COVID-19 and Persons with COVID-19-like Illness in Schools
Updated July 23, 2020


Thank You: A Special Message to Maryland’s Teachers

JUNE 10, 2020 UPDATE

Dr. Salmon Governor’s Press Conference Remarks 6.10.2020

By: Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D., State Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Salmon Governor’s Press Conference Remarks 6.10.2020

Thank you Governor for your continued leadership. Today I am excited and optimistic to share some positive news about moving education forward in Maryland.  In light of the encouraging data we have seen in recent weeks that allowed the Governor to move the State into stage two of the Roadmap to Recovery, the education community has been able to move alongside the rest of the State.

School systems will now be able to bring small groups of students and staff into school buildings for summer school programming. After consultation with leading public health experts, that would mean having between 10-15 individuals maximum at a time in rooms within school buildings.

Students with the most intense learning needs are the ones that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, and without an intense focus on these students they would be among the last to recover.

Therefore, I strongly encourage local school systems to focus any return to school buildings for summer instruction on those that have been most deeply impacted by the pandemic or those that have struggled with distance learning.

This likely includes younger children, students who are the farthest behind academically, students who lack the capacity to work independently, and students without the proper resources to participate in distance learning effectively.

Long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened during this COVID-19 crisis. Now is the time for school systems to engage their equity plans. This is required by a regulation that I recommended and that was passed by the State Board of Education, so that these groups of students are our first priority in the recovery plan for Maryland education.

It is incumbent upon State and local leaders in education to maintain the emphasis on equity and action for those most affected by current events.

Additionally, all nonpublic special education schools may reopen to serve students with disabilities. These schools may begin bringing small groups of children back into their buildings under the same capacity parameters as public school systems. As one of the first programs to reopen following extended school closures, Maryland’s nonpublic special education schools may develop a model for replication across the State during this recovery period.

This reopening allows for instruction to many students with disabilities through an alternative service delivery model, including opportunities for face-to-face instruction. Eligible programs that opt to reopen will need to develop a recovery plan aligned with the new service delivery system. This plan will require thoughtful planning and intentional collaboration from all parties to ensure the continuum of teaching and learning and the smooth transition of students returning to a physical school building. Health and safety protocols and procedures that are in accordance with State guidelines must be addressed prior to reopening.

In the coming days as we move forward with the state’s recovery, all child care providers may reopen as long as they follow the health department protocols listed on the MSDE website and also adhere to class size restrictions.

We are expanding the number of individuals that child care providers can have in one room to a maximum of 15 total. This will assist both providers and members of the community as many parents and families return to work.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, local school systems and MSDE have consistently maintained student access to nutritious meals with more than 13 million meals served since the start of school closures.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has extended several waivers through the end of summer to include non-congregate meals, meal service time flexibility and allowing parents and guardians to pick up meals on behalf of their children.

As we transition to a more familiar and routine Summer Meal Service Program, the level of operation including number and types of meals served, as well as number of locations, is a local decision.  MSDE is incredibly grateful for the hard work and effort of our local food service personnel and their operations teams.

My team at the State Department of Education continues to collect feedback from the stakeholders and local districts on items for inclusion within the Maryland Together: Recovery Plan for Education.  A significant portion of the updated plan includes recommendations and options that can be implemented in local school systems within our now stage two.

The revised plan, which has been posted on the MSDE website last night, includes several requirements that school systems must follow as they begin to return students and staff back into the buildings.

Each school system must establish a local stakeholder recovery group that is representative of their schools and the community, and their equity plans need to be reflected through their recovery plans. Systems and schools must determine where their students are instructionally, identify the gaps in learning, and prepare a path for instructional success and recovery. The Maryland College and Career Ready Standards and all state frameworks for each content area must continue to be followed. A system must also be in place to track student attendance and engagement in distance learning activities.

Local school systems also must be following federal provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as well as all health and safety protocols developed by MSDE and the Maryland Department of Health for daily cleaning and collection of materials, as well as procedures for if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID.

The safe transportation of students is also critically important, and the State’s recovery plan outlines a number of vital steps to assist school systems as they make decisions on how to provide transportation to students in this current environment.

School systems are currently in the process of working through and releasing their plans for summer learning opportunities. All local recovery plans for what stage three would look like in the fall will come later in the summer with an outline from the school system on how they are going to communicate the information in their plans to the community. MSDE will be reviewing each to ensure that they meet the requirements outlined in the State’s education recovery plan.

Finally, I am announcing today that outdoor high school sports may resume practice and training activities within the same guidelines that were previously announced for youth sports programs by the Governor in May. Any and all sporting activities must align with the health and safety parameters outlined by MSDE and local school systems, some of which are detailed out in our education recovery plan.

As the unprecedented 2019-2020 school year draws to a conclusion, I want to first congratulate all of our high school graduates who are graduating or have already graduated.  It has been very heartfelt to see the different ways that local systems are honoring our seniors – from parades on the Boardwalk to outdoor ceremonies. I want to congratulate and thank these students, because they will be the ones who will carry us forward and deal with the issues that we are currently facing in the future.

Thank you to the superintendents, administrators, teachers, school support staff, child care providers, parents and all other members of the community who have stepped up in these remarkable times to do their best to keep our children safe, engaged, and learning.

I am eager to work with all of those in the community to move education forward in the coming months, stronger than ever before. Thank you very much.



Message to Maryland’s Child Care Providers

By: Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D., State Superintendent of Schools

On behalf of the Maryland State Department of Education, I want to thank Maryland’s child care providers, teachers and staff who have agreed to deliver services for those essential persons and first responders on the front lines combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize the financial and health risks you are taking to help stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Without you, doctors and nurses could not treat patients, paramedics could not respond to emergencies, law enforcement officers could not maintain order, grocery store clerks could not stock shelves with necessities, and drivers could not deliver supplies. Child care providers are the foundation of Maryland’s pandemic mitigation and recovery efforts, and we are grateful to you.

We understand there are many questions about the current invoicing and payment process. MSDE continues to process payments for 2,880 child care providers participating in the Child Care Scholarship (CCS) program based on child enrollment, not attendance. For those child care providers who have stepped forward and agreed to provide child care through the Essential Personnel Child Care (EPCC) or the Essential Persons School Age (EPSA) programs, we are working with our CCS vendor to process invoices as quickly possible while ensuring CCS payments are also processed. To meet the challenge, the CCS vendor has doubled its invoice processing team to 50 persons strong. MSDE’s team is working tirelessly side-by-side with our vendor to verify and expedite all payments and apologize for any delays some may be experiencing. MSDE will continue to work to ensure child care providers have the financial and other resources needed to thrive. If you have any questions, please contact us through this invoice assistance google form.

Our state’s child care providers will be vital to our recovery efforts and the reestablishment of a strong and thriving economy. MSDE is evaluating ways in which the $45 million in Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding can be used to support child care or essential persons and assist child care providers once the state of emergency is lifted.

Thank you for keeping Maryland’s children safe and healthy every day.


Special Announcement: School Closure Extended to May 15

After extensive consultation with the State Board of Education and leading public health experts in the State, I am extending the closure of schools through May 15th.  With regards to the remainder of the school year and summer, we will use this time to examine every option, and continue to develop a long-term plan for recovery.

In a very short timeframe, school systems have continued to increase their digital presence and capabilities to provide learning opportunities to all students. All school systems must submit their continuity of learning plans to MSDE. The plans include an overall description of how systems will deliver continuity of learning to all students:

  • A description of the roles and responsibilities of district staff, school administrators, teachers, instructional assistants, students, and parents.
  • A sample teacher and student day.
  • A plan of accountability for how systems will monitor and assess student performance.
  • A description of how the school system plans to address equity for special education students, English learners, students with academic needs, and homeless students.
  • A section that identifies the professional development plan for staff. And a description of the resources currently available for students.

We are helping school systems to obtain the resources, such as additional devices, platforms for learning, and expanded broadband capabilities, that they need to carry out their plans in an equitable and meaningful way. We are hopeful that the additional $207 million dollars in funding from the federal CARES Act, 90 percent of which will go directly to local school systems, will help to address gaps in the availability of these resources.

After speaking with local superintendents this past week, school systems have also started to develop plans for additional digital learning and the recovery of any lost instructional time in the form of expanding summer school programs.  State and local school officials are preparing for a number of scenarios depending on when our educators and students would be able to re-enter school buildings. At the Department, we have started to develop a long-term plan for recovery and will actively seek to engage stakeholders throughout the State as the plan comes to fruition.

I understand the impact that the uncertainty of this situation has created for everyone in our school communities, especially for groups like our high school seniors. We want seniors and their families to have the opportunity to recognize their wonderful accomplishments from their time in high school and receive their diplomas. Local superintendents have been working on a number of creative alternatives to ensure our high school seniors receive the recognition they deserve.

I would like to take a moment to give recognition to all of our local school superintendents for their unwavering tenacity and outstanding leadership during this unprecedented time.  Additionally, I want to thank the teachers, for their hard work and flexibility as they provide instruction to our over 900,000 students across the State.  I want to recognize the school system staff that provide support services to students such as counselors, psychologists and specialists – as their work is especially crucial during this time of uncertainty.  There are also some unsung heroes operating in our schools and they are the food service workers, custodial and maintenance staff and many other employees that have been working 24/7 to make and deliver food, clean and sanitize and keep our school’s infrastructure in great shape.  Thank you for your dedication and tireless efforts.

We continue to provide child care services to essential personnel at more than 3,700 State-funded sites across Maryland. Over 25,000 children of essential personnel are enrolled in these sites, and the State has the capacity to serve an additional 20,000 if the need should arise. Eligible families can continue to identify locations where child care services are available at licensed child and family care centers, as well as a number of YMCAs, senior centers, and Boys and Girls Clubs, through the LOCATE hotline service and through comprehensive lists available on the State Department of Education website. I am pleased that the State of Maryland has received an additional 45.8 million dollars from the federal CARES Act to support the maintenance of child care programs and continuation of child care services for essential personnel in our State during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we celebrate the Week of the Child, I want to thank all those individuals providing child care who have dedicated their lives to children. You are all champions  and we thank you for stepping up during this crisis.

Challenges remain as we take these unprecedented and swift steps to continue learning for students, and I want to thank our educators, parents, and students who have exhibited incredible patience and stepped up tremendously throughout this difficult and unprecedented time.

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes, it is a catalyst … a spark that creates extraordinary results. Let’s continue to stay positive and work together while we are physically apart.


All Child Care Providers to be Closed by the end of the day Friday, March 27th Except Those Serving Essential Personnel

Beginning at the end of the day on Friday, March 27, 2020, all child care programs are to be closed.

During this State of Emergency, child care programs have been established by the State to serve only designated essential personnel.

These programs are at no cost to designated essential personnel. Eligible programs may be found on the MSDE website at earlychildhood.marylandpublicschools.org or by using the LOCATE: Child Care resource, a telephone service that is available by phone Monday - Friday at 877-261-0060 between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM.

Please see the list of designated essential personnel identified in the Governor’s March 25, 2020 Executive Order.

The children of essential personnel attending the State-funded child care programs will be kept at an appropriate distance from each other with ratios of one teacher to nine children and smaller class sizes for younger children.  

Parents/guardians are strongly urged to keep children at home as the first and best option to protect them from the virus; it should be noted in the Governor's March 13, 2020 Executive Order, licensing regulations were relaxed to allow for Family, Friend and Neighbor care for five or fewer students.

If closed licensed child care programs are willing to provide child care to children of essential personnel, they may reopen beginning March 30, 2020, with the following requirements:

  • Programs must apply with their Regional Licensing Specialists to be approved before they begin serving eligible families.
  • These programs may only reopen after a thorough cleaning has been conducted.
  • They must only serve the children of essential personnel.

Parents and caregivers of essential personnel may call one of the following numbers for additional information: