Governor Larry Hogan closes Maryland public schools after COVID-19 outbreak


Courtesy of the Center for Disease Control

Governor Larry Hogan closed all Maryland public schools for two weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak.

By Jade Pinkowitz, Watkins Mill High School

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan called for the shutdown of all Maryland public schools on Thursday, March 12 from Monday, March 16 until at least Friday, March 27, among other sweeping regulations designed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The ending date for the closure is subject to change depending on when the Department of Health and Human Services and Center for Disease Control deem it is safe to discontinue social distancing.

“In 2009, Rockville High School closed due to the swine flu, but other than that I don’t recall anything else [of this magnitude happening] in MCPS,” principal Carol Goddard said. “Years ago… people died [from the flu outbreak] because they didn’t get ahead of it like we are doing now. Everybody needs to stay home, stay safe, and do not congregate in big crowds anywhere.”

All extracurriculars and other school-affiliated activities are canceled immediately and Montgomery County public libraries are closed for the duration of the shutdown. Montgomery County Public Schools’ teachers are not permitted to assign new work for students during the closure and grades are frozen during the school closings, Goddard added.

As of now, third marking period still ends on Friday, March 27, but assessment windows will be extended for progress checks and makeup work.  MCPS has posted materials for all grade levels and core classes to extend learning without assessment on its website.  Students are expected to join their appropriate class and review the materials during the break. Students without internet access filled out a survey in English today and will receive printed materials before the end of the day.

“I worry about our seniors… about them getting all the instruction they need to pass the external exams like IB and AP,” English resource teacher Julie Dean said. “There’s no more time [to prepare], those tests are coming. If we have high stakes exams and kids don’t get enough instruction to pass them, that’s a big problem.”

MCPS is providing IB and AP students with resources as the exams are still scheduled for May. The county previously released many statements, emails, and debriefings about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in regards to school closures and will continue to update on their website.

“We have students who need support, and not just curriculum support, they need instructional support [and] strategies, and they need their teachers,” Dean added. MCPS central office and school offices will remain open for the duration of the closure. The only staff allowed in buildings are year-round staff, therefore teachers are urged to bring home whatever materials or personal belongings. Teachers are not required to answer emails during the closing.

Watkins Mill High School will still host its family food market that was planned for Saturday, March 14. MCPS also plans to provide food for students on the Free and Reduced Meals plans throughout the shutdown. The SAT test day that was originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14 is canceled. The free SAT day for juniors was scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 but will be rescheduled for another time after the closure.

Additionally, the spring break trip to Portugal is canceled. “Because of the new travel restrictions, I don’t think it’s responsible to take anyone [on the spring break trip to Portugal] right now,” social studies teacher and trip sponsor Thomas Sneddon said. “I don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country.”

The spring musical, Once on This Island, is postponed from March 20, 21, 27, 28 to April 17, 18, 24, 25 pending the Governor’s approval of gatherings over 250 people.

This story was originally published on The Current on March 13, 2020.