Baltimore Sun

Fo­cus on ways to safely reopen city schools, not ways to keep them closed

- Max Ro­mano, Bal­ti­more Society · Education · Baltimore · Baltimore City Public Schools · Baltimore

I read with dis­may Delilah Holmes’ op-ed de­mand­ing a vac­cine prior to re­open­ing Bal­ti­more City Pub­lic Schools in-per­son (“Don’t reopen Bal­ti­more schools un­til there is a vac­cine,” Oct. 12). As a Bal­ti­more City Schools par­ent and as an es­sen­tial worker, I feel aban­doned by her and other teach­ers loudly protest­ing in-per­son school. I am re­ally not in­ter­ested in hear­ing all the things our schools CAN’T DO, I want to hear the things our schools CAN DO to reopen safely. We need spe­cific con­crete steps schools can take to open schools safely that don’t de­pend on un­avail­able tech­nol­ogy like a COVID-19 vac­cine.

I know the district is work­ing on these plans, and I can’t wait to see them laid out in de­tail. If the teach­ers need N95 masks, then lets get them N95 masks. If the rooms need fewer oc­cu­pants, than lets spread out in more rooms. If we need to of­fer some teach­ers and stu­dents with health vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties the op­por­tu­nity to work re­motely, then lets do that while giv­ing those want­ing and need­ing in-per­son school­ing the op­por­tu­nity to learn. Put a price tag on it and ask us if we’re will­ing to pay to ed­u­cate our chil­dren, I think the an­swer should be a re­sound­ing “yes.” Don’t tell me it’s im­pos­si­ble with­out a vac­cine; schools all over the world are do­ing it right now. I be­lieve it is pos­si­ble and im­por­tant to open some in-per­son pub­lic schools now.

As a per­son who has con­tin­ued work­ing in-per­son, in­ter­act­ing in close prox­im­ity with clients since the be­gin­ning of this pan­demic, I know that steps can be taken to main­tain in­per­son ser­vices while pro­vid­ing rea­son­able safety pro­tec­tions. Gro­cery stores, auto shops, hos­pi­tals, gyms, restau­rants, pri­vate schools and the Mo­tor Ve­hi­cle Ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tinue to of­fer in-per­son ser­vices during the pan­demic. How are pub­lic schools less es­sen­tial than those? Vir­tual learn­ing is a poor sub­sti­tute for what our kids need to learn, and our teach­ers should know this. My chil­dren’s teach­ers are mak­ing a valiant ef­fort to teach re­motely in kinder­garten and first grade, how­ever the in­ad­e­qua­cies of com­puter screens to pro­mote so­cial-emo­tional and aca­demic learn­ing are glar­ing. And the bur­den on par­ents and guardians to pay for child care, rely on friends and fam­ily for su­per­vi­sion, and limit their own par­tic­i­pa­tion in the work­force is im­mense and dis­pro­por­tion­ately bur­den­some for women, the poor, nonEnglish speak­ers and our society’s most dis­en­fran­chised. Please skip the ul­ti­ma­tum and fo­cus on what we can do now to open our schools safely.

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