BEL AIR, MD — Parents whose students are enrolled in Harford County Public Schools joined Delegate Mike Griffith and other lawmakers at a news conference Thursday morning to raise concerns about the plan for all-virtual learning. The event came days before the start of the school year for students in Harford County, which is Tuesday, Sept. 8.
A spokesperson for Griffith, who represents Harford and Cecil counties, said fellow Republicans would be there to raise awareness about the community’s concern regarding the proposed plan.
Senators Bob Cassilly, Jason Gallion and J.B. Jennings as well as Delegates Kathy Szeliga, Teresa Reilly, Susan McComas and Lauren Arikan signed a letter to Harford County Public Schools Aug. 27 asking that school officials “revisit their decision” to hold the first semester online. They asked school leaders to give families and teachers a choice about whether to return to the classroom.
“Many students have not opened a textbook since March, and extending that arrangement for another semester is unthinkable,” the elected officials wrote. “We are very concerned that the adopted plan for remote learning fails to meet even the basic educational needs of far too many students.” They said they had heard from “countless parents” whose children struggled with the remote learning setup in the spring, after schools closed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Last Friday, Harford County Public Schools Superintendent Sean Bulson said the school system did not have enough devices for students in kindergarten through third grade and would come up with alternate plans. Delayed devices are expected to arrive by mid-October, Bulson said.
Gov. Larry Hogan and State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said at a news conference last Thursday that schools should make plans to bring students back to physical classrooms and offered funding to those that moved forward in the first quarter toward in-person learning.
Maryland’s positivity rate for the coronavirus has been under 5 percent since June 25, Hogan said, which is the recommended benchmark for reopening. In Harford County, the positivity rate was 3.97 percent as of Tuesday, Sept. 1, according to the Maryland Department of Health.
The news conference hosted by Griffith, with lawmakers and families, began at 11 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, at Red Pump Elementary School in Bel Air.