BALTIMORE — Students in Baltimore city have finally started their winter break as they prepare to celebrate the holidays, but some people are concerned that when they return after the new year it could be dangerous to bring everyone back to in person learning all at once.
This is the reason the Baltimore Teachers Union is asking the district to allow virtual learning for the first week of school after break.
Christina Duncan Evans who’s the teacher chapter chair for Baltimore Teachers Union said they’re recommending the district allow students, staff, and their family members to be tested the first two days after winter break.
“ We’re asking that everyone be tested upon return so that we can really get an understanding of how much transmission has happened during the week and a half that students have not had much control perhaps over the environment that they’re in,” Duncan Evans said.
This month the Baltimore public school system said as part of their health and safety update they’re continuing to watch COVID numbers in their schools along with making sure they have upgraded filters, staff members are vaccinated, and regular testing is implemented. However, teachers union representatives believe those measures have been inconsistent.
“The districts Covid dashboard is a source of concern for us because we regularly and repeatedly talk to staff members who have been notified of Covid cases in their school that never appear on the dashboard. Our contact tracing right now relying too much on documentation and not enough on actually talking to people who have tested positive about who they’re interacting with,” Duncan Evans said.
It's why they’re asking for a change in those safety protocols to make it safer for students and staff members after returning from winter break. It’s also why they believe starting with a week of virtual learning after the break is the best method to get ahead of a potential outbreak.
“Yes this new variant has put us in a new season literally and metaphorically that we need to fully understand before we resume in person learning. We’re in a really different place with Covid then we were in terms of when these health and safety protocols were adopted. We’re calling for a temporary transition to virtual learning so that we can fully understand the extent of transmission in Baltimore city how it’s affecting families in schools before we put kids back into crowded classrooms crowded cafeterias and crowded hallways,” Duncan Evans said.
Organizers said the central office who monitors COVID contact will be closed over break, which means when it’s time to return to school there will be less data to support if anyone has been exposed.
Baltimore city schools responded to the request stating that winter break will now be extended so students can go get tested. Testing will start January 4th and students will now return to school January 5th, still no plans on implementing virtual learning.