'Free State Politics' Episode 4: COVID-19 and Maryland's schools - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

‘Free State Politics’ Episode 4: COVID-19 and Maryland’s schools

@BryanRenbaum

Episode 4 of the “Free State Politics” podcast presented by MarylandReporter.com is now available to download.

It features award-winning journalist John Rydell and producer Douglas Christian, an independent White House multimedia journalist. If you have not subscribed to the podcast, please do so.

The 24-minute episode features interviews with retiring State School Superintendent Karen Salmon and Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) President Cheryl Bost.

Salmon reflected on the decision to close the state’s schools at the beginning of the pandemic last year and discussed the challenges that educators will face when statewide in-person learning resumes in the fall. Bost discussed educators’ safety concerns and emphasized the need to address equity issues as students return to the classroom.

Salmon speaks on the decision to close schools 

“We had never been forced to do this kind of instruction before,” Salmon said. “We kept thinking the science would change and we could get back to school. Unfortunately, that did not happen. We ultimately had to make sure that we had the health and safety of our students and our educators come first. Even though there is no substitute for in-person learning, we had to put lots of structures into supporting our students getting their meals and making sure that they could have their instruction on an almost daily basis.”

Salmon says summer school, federal money, aimed at addressing learning gaps 

“Summer school has started. And this is a very good thing for many of our kids that really did not have the best virtual experiences. In the fall, we are going to be standing up high-dose tutoring. School systems have almost $3 billion to put towards all of the kind of relief and recovery that they need to from COVID. And they have until September of 2024 to spend those funds.”

Bost says schools have a lot of ground to make up 

“We really do not know what normal will be,” Bost said. “Schools shut down March 13 of 2020…Many of our educators, especially our support professionals, started serving meals and made sure our buildings were safe. Then we moved to virtual learning. And we know some of those components will remain. And we know we have to make up for some of the lost relationships and address social and emotional learning as we move forward with summer programs and the fall.”

Bost says safety concerns must be addressed before returning to the classroom 

“We have research nationally that shows that many educators did go out and get the vaccination, believing the science that was out there. But overall, we want to make sure that the conditions for when we get into the summer programs and the fall are safe. And that includes the buildings. We have money in the American Rescue Plan to improve HVAC and ventilation systems. So that needs to be done. And that should be a baseline no matter whether we are in a pandemic or not.”

Finale: 

The podcast concludes with Rydell’s signature two-minute societal self-reflection: “A Moment of Clarity.”

This week the host discusses the potential gubernatorial candidacy of attorney and former state delegate Robin Ficker. Ficker, a Republican, is known for his unusual antics and has unsuccessfully sought multiple offices in Maryland, including that of U.S. House and U.S Senate.


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