Teachers union concerned about COVID in city schools

Candidates sought for Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners
Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 09:39:03-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — There are growing concerns in Baltimore city about how the school system is handling COVID-19. Parents and the teachers union believe some positive cases are not being caught.

It's one of the issues Cristina Duncan Evans, teacher chapter chair for the Baltimore Teachers Union, brought up Thursday, after the first few weeks of school brought mixed emotions.

"It’s a lot of relief, a lot of emotional joy but it’s also mixed with this new uncertain environment," said Duncan Evans.

Evans she’s heard lots of concerns from members about testing, contact tracing and overall transparency from the school system.

"They are really expecting people to take health risks, serious and grave health risks on limited information," said Duncan Evans.

The City Schools dashboard includes the number of positive cases at each school, as well as the date of those reports.

However, they could not provide a total number of people who are in quarantine.

177 people have tested positive in the last 10 days, which accounts for .2 percent of students and staff.

Duncan Evans believes positive cases are going uncovered because the city’s mandatory asymptomatic testing just started this week. It’s mandatory at every school.

"But we’re hearing reports from our members than asymptomatic testing has not started at every school," said Duncan Evans.

City Schools said they hired health and safety coordinators to ensure testing occurs appropriately and schools can work with the district test coordinator to resolve any issues.

For any positive cases, City Schools said it conducts contact tracing six days a week and as much as 12 hour days at times.

"We have concerns about whether contact tracers are working evening and weekends. The slow pace of contact tracing is very, very concerning and in a lot of cases, people are calling each other rather than relying on the districts contact tracing, which as you can understand increases peoples anxiety significantly," said Duncan Evans.

City Schools said contact tracers first work to separate anyone that tests positive from the school environment and then notify close contacts as soon as possible.

Families that choose not to participate in testing have to get it weekly from another source with proof of results.