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Jacobs' floor amendment could help physician recruitment

ANNAPOLIS — A $2 million earmark for recruiting doctors to rural areas came about pretty quickly thanks to the efforts of Del. Jay Jacobs.

In an interview Monday, March 29, Jacobs, R-36-Kent, said the House of Delegates was taking up Senate Bill 433 on Wednesday, March 24 when a fellow Eastern Shore delegation member gave him an important heads-up.

Jacobs said Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36-Caroline, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, warned Jacobs the bill allocating state funding for colleges and universities could be detrimental to hospitals on the Shore because it included an amendment providing $5 million to benefit University of Maryland Capital Region Medical Center in Prince George’s County.

A flurry of activity followed including, Jacobs said, a call with University of Maryland Shore Regional Health President and CEO Ken Kozel. That led Jacobs to offer a floor amendment.

“The University of Maryland School of Medicine shall provide specialized clinical care at rural hospitals operated by the University of Maryland Medical System by assigning faculty who specialize in essential areas to each rural hospital,” the amendment states.

University of Maryland Medical System is parent company of UM Shore Regional Health.

The amendment requires an annual appropriation of at least $2 million for fiscal years 2023 through 2025. The amendment for the Prince George’s County hospital also is for fiscal years 2023 through 2025.

The bill passed the House 132-0 on third reading with the amendments Thursday, March 25, according to the Maryland General Assembly’s website.

“Delegate Jacobs has always been a strong advocate for the healthcare needs of his constituents on the Eastern Shore, and we are grateful for his leadership on this issue. The amendment he put forward last week will help University of Maryland Shore Regional Health ensure that our patients have improved access to specialists within our system as we continue to create healthier communities together. We look forward to working with our partners in Annapolis to deliver on the goals outlined in this bill,” Kozel said in a statement.

Jacobs said the goal of both amendments is physician recruitment.

The language for the UM Capital Regional Medical Center amendment is more restrictive, with the funds to be used for specialists in neuroscience, obstetrics and gynecology, oncology and vascular neurology.

Jacobs said the language in his amendment serving rural areas is broader: “faculty who specialize in essential areas to each rural hospital.”

His hope is that it should give UM Shore Regional Health the flexibility and funding to recruit doctors for UM Shore Medical Center at Chestertown and other affiliated facilities.

“I know it’s something we’ve talked about for years since Shore took over our hospital,” Jacobs said. “I’m hoping it will attract some young doctors who will want to spend their career here.”

Jacobs said it is a pretty big deal to get an amendment on the floor like how this one came about.

“It evolved pretty quickly. It’s how I like to see things happen, when you fight for something good and you get results,” he said.

CHESTERTOWN — Bubbles filled the air and balloon towers lined the parking lot of Hope Fellowship Church in Chestertown Saturday morning, March 27 for a drive-thru Easter giveaway. Visitors made several stops as they drove through the lot, including one at which the Easter Bunny said hello. Joining the Easter Bunny here are, from left, Emerson Cotton, Nonee Carroll, Gladys Hynson and Cristal Paine.

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The Sultana celebrates 20 years of sailing and teaching

CHESTERTOWN — Compare the world that greeted Sultana as it was launched 20 years ago and that of the 18th century boat on which it was based today, you’ll find each time period remarkably different.

Twenty years ago, on March 24, 2001, a crowd of at least 5,000, if not more, lined the streets leading down to the Chester River and at the foot of High Street to watch the United States Army Reserve 949th Transportation Company crane lift the ship from land to river.

In 2021, there will be no gathering of such size in celebration of the Sultana’s 20th anniversary — at least not for the time being. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic squashed plans to celebrate the Sultana, the ship’s significance is not lost on the community it serves.

Just check the Sultana Education Foundation’s Facebook page, which received hundreds of likes, shares and plenty of comments with people reminiscing on the boat’s launch or wishing the Sultana a happy birthday.

Created with the purpose of helping students better understand the Chesapeake Bay by getting them out on the water, Drew McMullen, president of SEF, said Tuesday the Sultana has allowed the foundation to branch out in its offerings.

“Within about 24 months (of launching the Sultana), we were absolutely overwhelmed with demand,” McMullen said. “We had no room left. The boat was full and that said to us that the schools that we serve — and that’s what we do, we serve primarily public schools from Maryland — really had demand for environmental education programing.”

Since the Sultana’s launch, McMullen said the foundation has introduced teacher training programs and offered other ways to get students on the water like canoeing and kayaking. He said the foundation now takes as many students out in canoes or kayaks on the water as it does on the Sultana.

The foundation has its Holt Education Center on the corner of Cannon and Cross streets with a laboratory that helps teach students fundamental sciences, McMullen said, like geography. He said the foundation is now in the early stages of developing a teacher center that will allow for more basic, introductory nature programs.

“Our goal for a long time has been to offer kids from (pre-kindergarten) through high school a selection of environmental literacy programs related to the Chesapeake Bay and it all started with the boat,” McMullen said.

According to its website, the foundation has served more than 14,000 students and teachers annually with Maryland State Department of Education certified programs in history and environmental sciences.

When the Sultana was launched in 2001, there were “not a ton” of other education vessels like it, McMullen said.

The story of Sultana started in 1997 when John Swain had the idea to build a replica of the 1768 schooner. The original boat held the distinction of being the smallest ship in the British Royal Navy. Built in the Colonies, the original Sultana was used to patrol the shores looking for tax dodgers.

Swain said Tuesday one of the reasons he was first interested in building the Sultana was because of its size. He saw a design for it in a book by Howard Chapelle.

“She was basically based on a fishing boat,” Swain said. “She was built in Boston on the lines of a fishing boat. They gussied her up a little bit and turned her into something of, almost like a little ship. I always kind of liked her and I always wondered how it would feel to sail her.”

As opposed to other similarly recreated boats, Swain opted to construct the Sultana slowly and with the help of volunteers as well as three shipwrights. That method of construction is what McMullen said led to the large crowd that gathered to see the boat launched.

“He invited the public to come in and talk to all the shipwrights as they were working,” McMullen said. “As a result people just got really invested. I remember we’d see people who’d visit the shipyard once a week or they might come down from Philadelphia once a month.”

Swain said if people stopped by the shipyard to see the Sultana be built, he’d put them to work. What followed was the community taking ownership of the Sultana’s construction.

“It’s a way of getting the community involved and having ownership of the boat,” Swain said. “It helps her with longevity. Not only to raise money, but to make sure that it’s taken care of.”

McMullen agreed saying slowing down the rate of construction on the vessel allowed for the community to watch and learn as the Sultana was built as well as become invested in the boat.

“So when it came time to launch it, yeah we had a huge crowd,” McMullen said. “A lot of good people had been coming and watching it as it went along.”

The Sultana was constructed using mostly locally sourced trees from Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. Swain said farmers allowed them to come onto their land and find trees whose shapes would fit each part of the Sultana they were looking to build — a first for him. Previously, he had purchased lumber.

“Farmers would let us cut their trees. They’d give us tractors to haul them around,” Swain said. “We would look at a tree and say, ‘Well, I think we could get this frame out of that tree and that frame out of that one.’ We kind of went about it like that.”

The framing of the Sultana is Osage orange, the keel and the planking are white oak and the deck is Douglas fir.

Because of the care that was taken building the Sultana and the yearly maintenance provided by the foundation, Swain said it has required minimal repairs in the 20 years since its launch.

Swain said the actual launch of the boat was a bit “anticlimactic” for him — and understandably so as he’s built 75 to 80 ships. Still, he views all the ships he’s created like they are his children.

“Every now and again you run across one or someone will call me and say, ‘I just bought a boat and I think you might be the builder.’ I say, ‘Yep, I remember the boat and who I built it for,’ usually. It’s kind of neat,” Swain said.

Board of Education
KCPS to offer four days of in-person instruction

ROCK HALL — Kent County Public Schools has announced that students will be able to attend classes in person four days a week thanks to revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The news came a day before the March 26 deadline for families to return a survey to KCPS regarding their plans for the fourth quarter. Through the online survey, families could state whether they wanted their children to alternate between in-person and virtual classroom days or remain fully virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The new CDC guidelines reduced the physical distancing recommendations for classrooms from 6 feet between students to at least 3 feet. The CDC announced the new guidelines March 19.

“Recently, CDC guidelines were updated allowing 3 feet social distancing in schools. This change will allow our schools to accommodate all hybrid students for 4 days per week (Monday — Thursday),” reads a notification from KCPS issued March 25. “The number of students on a bus will also increase; therefore, when possible, we encourage parents to transport their child to school.”

Grades in some buildings already offered four days of in-person instruction due to the number of students and the size of classrooms. Otherwise, students were divided into two cohorts that alternated two in-person and three distance learning days.

At Galena Elementary School, for example, first- through fourth-graders could attend four days a week, while pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and fifth grade students received two days of in-person instruction.

Students in all grades at Kent County Middle School in Chestertown have had the opportunity to attend classes in person Monday through Thursday, with Friday being a virtual day.

KCPS administrators recognized that the changes in CDC guidelines and in-person instruction days could change families’ decisions on the fourth-quarter survey. Families were asked to revise their responses and contact their school principals by March 26.

KCPS has maintained a dashboard showing confirmed COVID-19 cases in buildings. For privacy, the dashboard does not state whether the cases are students or staff.

The most recent confirmed positive case was at Kent County High School in Worton, reported March 26. There have been seven cases total at the high school since Nov. 19.

Kent County Middle School has reported the most cases with 10, the most recent being two confirmed on Feb. 25.

There have been eight cases at Galena Elementary School, the most recent being three reported March 8.

There have been four cases at both H.H. Garnet Elementary school in Chestertown and Rock Hall Elementary School. The most recent case at Garnet was reported Feb. 8. Rock Hall’s last reported case was on Jan. 15.

The KCPS Central Office in Rock Hall has reported six cases, the most recent being on Dec. 30.

The Sultana is lifted into the Chester River by the U.S. Army Reserve 949th Transportation Company barge derrick 6801 heavy crane, the Keystone State. This photo was taken March 24, 2001.