As seems to be the case with many topics these days, the notion of school reopening is a divisive issue these days. If you believe a majority of the teacher unions across the state, our classroom leaders only want to return to school in a virtual format this fall because they don’t feel it’s safe. I personally do not believe a majority of local teachers feel this way, but I certainly understand they have a tremendous amount of apprehension about what their jobs will look like. In the case of Worcester County, it’s very much up in the air right now, but all indications are the one-week in-school, one-week virtual model will likely be the final decision. There’s simply no other way the school system can meet social distance requirements due to the volume of students.
If you are for in-school instruction this fall, like I am, there was good news at Gov. Hogan’s press conference this week. State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon stressed flexibility will be allowed by jurisdiction. This is critical to counties on the shore like Worcester. The concern among many was the state education department would mandate statewide rules when each jurisdiction in the state is facing entirely different scenarios with COVID-19. What works for Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties – all virtual until next year most likely – should not be the case on the lower shore.
“Now with the state fully in recovery, local systems will have the flexibility to determine in consultation with their local health department how they will open and which groups of students and staff will be able to re-enter their buildings,” said Salmon. “Schools can choose whether to open for in-person instruction in the fall. Depending on conditions in their localities, school systems may be more restrictive than requirements outlined in the state’s recovery plan. Some systems have begun to lay a path to begin the year all virtual, and some plan to move forward with a hybrid approach. … Within the framework of local control, the state will set a series of guardrails …”
In her remarks, Salmon confirmed all students and teachers will need to wear masks throughout the school day, just as has been happening in summer academy this month. There were also remarks about following other CDC guidelines such as handwashing and physical distancing and protocols to follow when a positive test occurs as far as contact tracing.
These are all positive developments because each jurisdiction needs flexibility to make the best decisions for the students they serve.
Many locals posted sincere messages this week on social media and marquees remembering the life of long-time Purple Moose Saloon owner Gary Walker, who passed away last Sunday after a brief illness. “Walker,” as many people simply called him, was “always full of life” and “had a smile for everyone, along with a joke or a prank,” according to long-time employee and friend Charlene Elliott-Carr.
Former Ocean City Mayor, Delegate and Senator Jim Mathias reached out this week with remembrance piece of Walker. I will let his words take it from here.
“During my years in elected office, I worked with many business people to abolish the liquor dispensary in Worcester County. Among those individuals was Gary Walker and his right-hand person Charlene Elliott-Carr. He was unwavering in his support for me as we worked to dismantle this monopoly. It took years and Gary was steadfast through it all. He was an honest person who told you how it was. From the beginning Gary was instrumental in this effort,” Mathias recalled. “He was pioneering business person on the Boardwalk and in those days the Boardwalk was full of many colorful characters. Gary Walker rightfully earned the respect of them all. When we were finally able to dismantle the LCB and return to “government free enterprise” in the Worcester County hospitality, bar and restaurant industry, it put serious money back in play for the hospitality business owners in Worcester County to create jobs, invest in their businesses, grow, and as hard working and successful business people should, realize improved bottom lines. Gary was ‘front line’ supportive in everything it took to get the job done and the legislation to make it happen. Every opening day of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis Gary and Charlene were there with other industry leaders from around the state making certain I and my fellow lawmakers knew the importance of the hospitality, bar and restaurant industry in Maryland and restoring free enterprise in Worcester County and Ocean City was critical to its’ future success. I am most grateful to have been a leader in those efforts but know the real success was due to years of hard work by advocates like Gary Walker that led the fight for a long-long time.”
Mathias added, “On a fun note Gary was a true ‘Rock n’ Roller.’ I appreciate him letting me take the stage from time to time at the Purple Moose with great bands like Mary Lou and the Untouchables, The Ray Pittman Project, and Great Train Robbery to rock the crowds on the Purple Moose dance floor. Those nights at the Moose are memories I’ll forever hold dear in my heart right alongside of my memories of Gary making it all happen. Thanks Gary for making Ocean City and the Boardwalk great. May God grant you peace and eternal rest.”