BALTIMORE — Baltimore city Schools have delayed the start of in person learning by one day but school leaders said they plan to return to in-person learning with new guidelines to keep students and staff safe.
Before the winter break, the teachers union asked school officials if students and staff could return from winter break starting virtually for the first week. However, Monday morning Baltimore City Public Schools held a virtual meeting to layout the timeline of kids getting back in the classroom this week and it starts with students and staff being tested.
Dr Sonja Santelises who’s the chief executive officer for BCPS said considering the emergence of the omicron variant she understands that many staff students and parents are concerned. That’s why city schools have developed a new mitigation strategy that highlights five key commitments they plan to make to help with preventing the spread of COVID.
“As a national leader in a systematic testing we will continue to conduct nearly 50,000 test each week. One of the things I think is very important to note is that the decision to return to in person learning is grounded in one, two plus years of experience in consultation with medical professionals. Our decision aligns with a Maryland State Department of education, The US Department of Education, the Maryland Department of health, and again Baltimore City."
One, on the advice of our health advisory committee we will be requiring all staff to participate in COVID testing. Staff will now be required to be tested regularly that means weekly even if you are vaccinated.
Commitment two, we will accelerate COVID-19 testing this week all high school students will be off for testing on Wednesday one day before they return, we will front-load testing for as many elementary and middle school students as possible on Thursday and Friday.
"Third BCPS is establishing a COVID -19 response division by the end of the month replacing the current front-line health and safety coordinators. Fourth, in order to limit absences due to quarantine staff and students in elementary schools who are in pools that test positive will be given rapid test to quickly identify who is positive. Five, we will offer more ways for families to submit COVID-19 testing and sent forms such as an email and online versions,” Santelises said.
Officials said adapting a test to stay program where individuals who test positive after a rapid test will be sent home to quarantine and those who test negative will be allowed to stay, that begins on January 18th.
Also, each student will need a consent form from parents to get tested.
“Each of these steps is critical we are responding and adapting to make sure that our systems are tighter and they are critical for the early identification of COVID-19 cases, so that we can take quick and decisive actions,” Santelises said.
In addition to these preventative measures BCPS said they will continue treatment of the city schools ventilation systems to ensure they meet health and safety standards for air quality, while also masking as well as social distancing.
Lastly, they will host daily on-site testing for staff and students who experience COVID-like symptoms to help prevent the spread in an effort to keep everyone safe.