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Baltimore City teacher says students will be 'devastated' as district dismisses 450 employees

Posted at 10:14 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 23:13:57-04

BALTIMORE — The CEO of Baltimore City Schools will end assignments for 450 temporary workers and implement a hiring freeze in an effort to save money as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a toll on the district's budget.

The staff members who will be losing their jobs are "resource teachers, regular education teachers, parent support, [and] teacher's assistants," said Anthony Avery, who is a computer science teacher at Hamilton Elementary/Middle School, where he said more than 10 staff members are being laid off.

Avery said he is also one of the many full-time employees who will now be out of work. He added he had no idea the district's financial issues would mean him losing his job.

“I don’t think I fully processed it. I think I'm still processing it as the days continue," he said after learning about the news on Tuesday.

Avery said he teaches more than 800 students in grades 1-8. He said he's been the go-to-guy for students who have been struggling to adjust to virtual learning. He believes the layoffs could have a negative impact on students.

“They’re not going to be okay with trusting anyone just coming in. they get used to seeing us there. They’re going to be devastated.”

Avery said his last day is October 2.

"It's hard," he said.

Last week, CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises sent a letter to staff about the financial challenges. She said school closures led to "unavoidable expenses to the district over the last six months and moving forward".

"Expenses included the purchase of approximately 55,000 laptops for students and teachers, 15,000 hotspots for student broadband access, and large quantities of cleaning supplies for our buildings – among many other items," she said. "While the district has received several COVID-related grants, a large gap remains between expenses incurred and grant funding. At the same time, we’re experiencing significant reductions in revenue usually generated by meals served through the school lunch program."

In the letter, the CEO said the district anticipates similar issues in the future as it remains unknown if additional funds will be made available through the state and/or federal level.

"We are faced with the possibility of financial challenges for the foreseeable future," Dr. Santelises said. "While we remain hopeful that additional funding may become available through legislative action at the state and/or federal level, we must act now to preserve financial flexibility in anticipation of events as they unfold throughout the school year."

Dr. Santelises also said she believes the district has "the dedication and determination to ensure that we continue to do whatever is necessary for our students to succeed and thrive", despite the challenges that lie ahead.

We reached out to the district spokesperson who reiterated the employees aren’t being laid off, but rather the district is ending their temporary assignments.

WMAR-2 News has been told 200 of those workers scheduled last day of work is on October 2.