Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday urged Maryland jurisdictions to make plans to reopen schools for in-person learning by March. Image via Facebook Live.

Maryland will use $20.7 million of federal coronavirus relief funds for education needs, Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Monday.

The money will be used to fund competitive grants as well as awards to individual institutions and workforce development programs.

Hogan last week proposed a state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 that included $7.5 billion for K-12 schools. The $20.7 million allocation will help address the needs of Maryland schools, the governor said.

“In addition to proposing a budget that funds education across the board at record levels, we are working to get federal COVID-19 relief funding out to schools and colleges as quickly as possible,” Hogan said in a statement. “We are prioritizing this relief funding where it can do the most good for the most students.”

Of the newly-allocated federal relief funds, $10 million will be used to fund Competitive Innovation Grants that will be awarded to education institutions to engage students, teachers and school communities and address academic accessibility issues related to the pandemic.

The state will prioritize projects that address at-risk students. Eligible schools will receive $1 million in grants, and projects can be implemented at an individual school, feeder system of schools, or school system.

Hogan is also directing $7.4 million to expand existing community college workforce development programs, develop new ones, and market programs to employers and prospective students.

The state is awarding $2.6 million to independent colleges, with an award of $200,000 per school, to address institution costs related to the pandemic.

The Maryland State Department of Education will award $479,094 to the Maryland School for the Deaf and $253,354 to the Maryland School for the Blind.

Both schools will be able to use the funds to buy assistive technology and adaptive equipment for staff and students, implement security tools, and provide professional development.

Hogan on Thursday urged Maryland’s school systems to plan to return to in-person learning by March, although he acknowledged that he does not have the ability to actually order schools to reopen.

The announcement drew mixed reactions from parents, students and teachers.

The Coalition of Maryland Parents and Students, which represents thousands of parents across Maryland, expressed their support for Hogan’s announcement.

“We have watched as our kids have suffered severe academic loss, declining grades, social isolation and an increase in mental illness,” the coalition said in a statement last week.

The coalition argued that schools can safely reopen with masking and social distancing in place.

Hogan said Thursday that if schools do not begin moving to in-person learning, the state will “explore every legal avenue at our disposal.”

Maryland State Educators Association President Cheryl Bost told WUSA that she was disappointed with Hogan’s comments.

“To come out arbitrarily with a date and then threaten legal action is just really unnecessary,” Bost said. “It really is disconnected from the needs and the desires in the work that’s happening in our schools to what they’re sharing in these press conferences.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...