Amidst concerns of another surge of COVID-19 infections, local school systems in Maryland this fall will have a choice to conduct education completely online, return to the physical classroom or deploy a hybrid model that combines both, said Maryland School Superintendent Karen Salmon at Wednesday’s press conference with Gov. Larry Hogan.

Her announcement comes as nine counties have already moved ahead with plans to go with all online learning platforms at the beginning of the 20/21 school year.

“We want to get our students back to school as soon as possible for in-person instruction, and this should be the driving goal and the basis for all of our decisions,” Dr. Salmon said. “However, the imminent safety and health of students and staff must, and always will be, the first priority.”

“Local systems will have the flexibility to determine in consultation with their local health departments how they will open and which groups of students and staff will be able to reenter buildings,” she said. She said some counties have decided to move forward with a hybrid approach that includes classroom learning and virtual learning.

“Schools can choose to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall depending on conditions in their locality,” she said. “School systems may be more restrictive than the requirements outlined in the state recovery plan.”

School systems have until Aug. 14 to submit their plans for the school year. Salmon said $100 million is available to address the digital divide and fund remote learning.

Salmon statements come a day after Kent County Health Officer William Webb highly recommended an all online learning platform for the fall.

Kent County School Superintendent Karen Couch told the Kent Pilot that the hybrid model and the virtual model were both discussed at the last school board meeting and that she will make a recommendation at the July 27 board meeting on the best way forward.