BALTIMORE — After nearly 60 days of planning and speaking with students, families, and employees, Baltimore City Public Schools will start the upcoming school year virtually. The district announced Monday it has finalized a proposal that would reopen the 2020-2021 school year entirely virtually, putting off any in-person classes until at least October 16.
School leaders are proposing a September 8 start date, the Tuesday after Labor Day.
If the Board of Commissioners approves, teachers and 10-month staff will return to work on August 26 to prepare for online instruction.
"The proposed schedule would give us an addition 3-4 days worth of time for teachers and school leaders and other school based staff to prepare for the virtual learning," said City Schools CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises.
Previously scheduled professional development days later in the year would become regular school days under the proposal.
Santelises acknowledges in person learning opportunities are the goal and they are using this time to be more thoughtful and prepare.
That includes, for instance, getting buildings ready with new air filters, working windows and making sure they allow for adequate social distancing.
"Our children are precious and we don’t want to just minimize risk for them. We want to do as much as we can to eliminate risk for them," said Diamonte Brown, the Baltimore Teachers Union President.
Brown said while they are happy that school with start virtually, they would like see to a commitment to virtual-only learning for the entire first semester.
"We have the time right now, we can start planning to make certain virtual learning is engaging. That we have the arts present in virtual learning. Our PE teachers actually having people up and moving since we know they're in their houses all day. Our science teachers accessing outside spaces just like the summer camps and maybe do some live lessons or something like that. So we have to use this time to think creatively and how we can still deliver the maximum, most effective, engaging learning we can to our students and also keep them safe at the same time," said Brown.
Right now the district is working to make sure all students have devices and internet access. They will be distributing 10,000 hotspots and they want to hear from anyone that still needs to get connected.
"We are also gonna begin actually going to families and other community organizations to make sure every young person has a device when we start," said Santelises.
The district has not made a decision about sports yet. They will provide an update on next steps for the hybrid option no later than October 16.