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Maryland Education Board Mandates 3.5 Hours Of Daily On-Camera Instruction; Teachers Say Change Comes Too Close To Start Of School Year

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — After hours of debate, the Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday passed a motion that will mandate an average of three-and-a-half hours of active, on-camera instruction during the school day.

Under the motion, schools are required to be open for at least 180 school days and provide six hours of learning each day.

The motion also requires half-day pre-kindergarten classes to have at least 1.5 hours of on-camera instruction spread across the day.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon had been pushing for the proposal despite concerns from teachers that the changes were too close to the beginning of the school year.

"Changing this requirement midstream, the public doesn't know you, as much as they know the teacher that they report to or the administrator in the building, and so by changing the schedules now for some, it causes some mistrust," Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said last week.

In an updated statement from Bost on Tuesday, the teachers union viewed the decision as a win:

"We appreciate that the State Board of Education rejected Superintendent Salmon's last-minute proposal to rip up local school schedules in a matter of weeks without thought for the confusion, stress, and chaos that would ensue. The State Board agreed with the more than 20,000 Marylanders who signed our petition in less than 48 hours that called for no mandated schedule changes until after the first quarter.

"The conversation at today's State Board of Education meeting would have been useful months ago; having it today, after the school year has begun in many areas, is incredibly out of touch with the realities that educators, parents, and students are dealing with every day and the hard work that they have done and that is ahead. The poor communication and sudden changes coming from the State Department of Education and state leadership are deeply concerning and in dire need of improvement.

"While this gives districts time to meet new standards, we are also deeply concerned with discussions of looking to move to expanding in-person learning later this year without also expanding resources or measures to protect the health and safety of educators and students.

"The school year is beginning, and educators, parents, and students want stability and the time to focus on teaching and learning. We must get this right, stay safe, and have consistent support rather than more last-minute surprises from state leaders."

A motion in front of the board to table changes to instruction requirements for two more weeks failed.

Last Thursday, Gov. Hogan announced all schools could safely reopen. Local school districts had a deadline of August 14 to submit their reopening plans to the state for the 2020-21 school year, with many deciding to teach virtually for at least the first part of the fall semester.

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