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Baltimore City Schools expanding optional increase in person learning

Posted at 10:37 PM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 07:37:59-05

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises pointed to declining grades and her belief in the districts ability to keep students safe as reasons to expand optional in person learning.

The Baltimore Teachers Union and parents held a drive by rally while Santelises made that announcement to say teachers and students aren’t ready to go back.

They say with numbers on the rise they don’t want to put their children and staff at risk.

“What numbers would lead them to say hey we’re going to shutdown in person learning all together because it’s dangerous,” said Baltimore Teacher’s Union President Diamonte Brown. “We don’t know that and the district has yet to commit to providing that for the community. We want increased transparency. We want a testing plan. We want our secretaries out of the buildings.”

While they honked outside the school board held a virtual meeting.

“If they can’t even meet in the school buildings to talk about reopening our schools than that should not be a topic at this moment,” said Angie Winder, a parent and member of the BTU Coronavirus Taskforce.

Since September, the district has provided optional in-person learning for families.

Around 2,000 students at more than 40 sites have done it.

Santelesis pointed to an increase in students failing one or more courses since virtual learning began as a reason to increase in person learning, but committed to making it optional for parents.

“Our schools will still maintain the small group learning environment that have operated safely and successfully since summer,” Santelesis said. “This is in keeping with the gradual phased in approach that has marked our reopening process to date.”

The district is Partnering with UMMS to offer same day and immediate testing for any student or staff showing symptoms.

Santelesis said city schools meet all of the CDC’s recommended mitigation strategies for in person learning.

“City Schools has exceeded CDC regulations. Every school site will have CDC recommended air ventilation with MERV 13 Air Filters which is the recommended highest grade of filter for buildings, air filters and HVAC systems or air purifiers in classrooms and other locations.”

Larry Gaines, an employee with the school system, said he has underlying conditions and grandchildren in the system and that going back in isn’t safe.

“This is serious, it’s something that we can’t see. It comes up and when it shows up at your door a lot of people die.”

Santelises said the full announcement about reopening will come Thursday.

There will be virtual town halls for staff next Wednesday Jan 20th and the next day for community members.