Maryland state officials close all public schools in response to COVID-19 pandemic


Photo screenshot courtesy Larry Hogan

Governor Larry Hogan provides COVID-19 updates at a press conference earlier today.

By Anna Yuan

All Maryland public schools, including MCPS, will be closed for two weeks March 16 through March 27 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon announced the closures March 12 at a press conference, which Governor Larry Hogan hosted. She later met with all Maryland public school superintendents to discuss further plans regarding the closures. During the press conference, Salmon also recommended that school systems consider using spring break for makeup days.

Maryland is the second state, behind Ohio, to close all public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While schools are closed, all public school buildings and school busses will be cleaned and disinfected before students return, Salmon said.

“It is crucial that we take immediate measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in school communities around the state,” she said.

As of March 12, there have been 12 positive cases of COVID-19 in Maryland, six of which are in Montgomery County.

The press conference followed Hogan’s announcement of the first case of community transmission of COVID-19 in Maryland earlier today. The patient, a Prince George’s County resident, had no known exposure to the virus through an infected individual or travel, Hogan said in his press release.

“The circumstances of this case indicate that we’re entering a new phase of this crisis in our state,” he said. “We should expect the number of cases to dramatically and rapidly rise. Our primary focus is now turning from containment to aggressively working to mitigate and limit the spread of the virus.”

In addition to school closures, Hogan canceled all events with more than 250 people, closed Baltimore’s port to cruise ships, activated the National Guard to carry out any necessary functions, barred public access to the State House, required non-essential state workers to work from home, extended expiration dates for all licenses, permits and any other certifications, and prohibited visits to state prisons. 

To focus his full attention on managing the outbreak, Hogan also delegated day-to-day operations of non-essential, non-crisis functions of the state government to Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford.

“The actions that I have announced here today will be disruptive to your everyday lives,” Hogan said. “And they may sound extreme, and they may sound frightening, but they could be the difference in saving lives and helping keep people safe.”

Two hours after Hogan’s press conference, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich hosted a press conference for Montgomery County residents to elaborate on Hogan’s orders and what they mean for the county.

Montgomery County’s recreation centers and libraries will close beginning March 16, Elrich said. He also urged private institutions like churches to adhere to the 250 person limit to “make sure that we minimize social contact to the greatest degree possible,” Elrich said.

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith said that while the state government has suggested using spring break to make up missed instructional days, MCPS officials are still working through the calendar and will provide updates.

“I want people to not cancel any plans right now,” Smith said. “Just let us think through this and figure out what makes the most sense, given where we are right now because everything has been changing hourly.”

In the past few weeks, the Board of Education’s Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Committee has met several times to formulate a strategy for students to continue learning if schools are closed for up to three weeks, though it hasn’t released specific plans. 

Currently, there are plans to provide elementary, middle and high school-specific resources to students. 

“Educational resources and materials in hard-copy format will be distributed to elementary and middle schools,” an MCPS email tonight to the community said. Officials will share additional information tomorrow regarding online materials, the email said.

MCPS is also prepared to distribute food to students who rely on the Free and Reduced-price Meals program during the school closure, officials said in the email. They will share locations and times in a March 13 update.

Officials during both press conferences emphasized the importance of staying at home and not convening in large groups. They urged all community members to practice social distancing to reduce transmission.

“Whatever [students] do, I hope that we can convey to them the importance of not taking this opportunity to congregate — we’re trying to keep them safe,” Elrich said. “This is not a vacation period we’re giving you as a bonus. We’re doing this because a lot of people are at risk, and we really want you to play your part.”


For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to these resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

World Health Organization

Maryland Department of Health

Montgomery County Public Schools

Montgomery County Department of Disease Control and Epidemiology — 240-777-1755

Maryland Department of Health and Infectious diseases — 410-767-6700