DO THE WORK and Reopen Maryland's Classrooms

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Dear Governor Hogan, Maryland State Senators and Maryland State Representatives:

Across the state, students are suffering academically and emotionally because they have not had in-class learning since the beginning of March 2020. While COVID-19 safety measures warranted school closings, there has been no evidence of a concerted effort in some school districts to work toward some form of reopening. They seem content in avoiding the challenge of figuring out how schools can move forward with some form of in-person instruction. This is where the State of Maryland should and must intervene. 

As a result of all-virtual instruction, students have been denied the crucial benefits of in-person interaction with their teachers and fellow classmates. These students have suffered tremendously-with no foreseeable end to 100 percent virtual "learning."They have experienced failing grades, depression -- even suicide. At least one high-school student, Michael Myronuk,  Jr. of Baltimore, lost all hope and took his own life because Maryland prioritized businesses like casinos, bars and Chuck E Cheese -over the well-being of kids and teens. 

Students with special needs are particularly under-served and wronged by all-virtual learning. Without in-person interaction, it's been next to impossible for them to get anything out of classroom instruction. At best, they lose the critical benefit of having regular routines, structure and one-on-one support.

The State of Maryland has left districts and counties to their own devices in reopening schools -- and this has enabled politics to prevail over the best interest of Maryland's students. Indeed, teachers have reason to be concerned about returning to the classrooms and have the right to demand provisions that will ensure their safety. But there must be a state-level mandate that schools actually implement reopening plans that balance those rights with the rights of students to get the best learning and developmental experience from their schools.

The well-being of students should be the main objective of any school system in any situation-including a pandemic. Instead, school reopening decisions in many Maryland counties have created political food chains in which students come last...because many of them can't their voices and cries for help continúe to go unheard. And the ineptitude of school districts in actively working on reopening plan is enforced by groups who, for mysterious reasons, appear to be completely resistant to any reopening scenario-regardless of COVID numbers or safety measures. They don't even want to discuss or hear about it. And those sentiments continue to paralyze decision-makers from doing what's best for Maryland students -especially those with special needs, transitioning from elementary or middle school, or who lack the skills and resources to be successful in an all-virtual instruction environment. This is particularly crucial since teachers in certain counties continue to grade students per pre-COVID county guidelines.

Therefore, the petitioners here demand the state of Maryland to take decisive steps to move all public schools to some form of reopening by Spring These steps should include:

  1. Ensuring that each school district has the necessary funds to procure sanitizing, PPE and other protective resources to reopen safely 
  2. Mandating that all school district implement these reopening plans in a way that enables opening by March 2021.

Maryland students deserve the states very best efforts to get them back into the classroom in a way that takes into the utmost consideration of the safety needs of students, faculty and their family members. As evidenced in in areas around the world with highly dense populations (among the most notable, New York City) there has been little or evidence that schools have been the cause of spikes in COVID numbers. Indeed, it's been the bars, restaurants, casinos and other for-profit entities - which have been allowed to open instead of schools- that have caused these spikes. This has unfairly made reopening classrooms more difficult...but not impossible.

We made this mess for Maryland students. Now we must make it right for them by mandating all school districts in the state reopen within the parameters (or those similar to) those listed in this petition.