BALTIMORE — On Tuesday the Maryland State Education Association, Baltimore Teachers Union, and Maryland PTA issued a joint call to hold the upcoming fall school semester virtually.
It came via a zoom conference attended by Cheryl Bost of the State Education Association, Tonya Sweat of the Maryland PTA, and Diamonte Brown, the President of the Baltimore Teachers Union.
The three groups sent a letter urging Governor Larry Hogan and State School Superintendent Karen Salmon to support the idea, citing the health and safety of Maryland students, educators, and families.
“We must rise above politics and focus on the reality and complexities of safely reopening schools,” the letter reads. “If we open our schools too quickly and without adequate safety precautions, the result will be that some educators, students, and their family members will contract the coronavirus. Some will recover, some will face debilitating health consequences or healthcare bills that they cannot pay, and some will die. These are stubborn facts. And they are costs and consequences that we must refuse to accept. A perfect solution does not exist. A safe one does.”
Advocates of leaving the classrooms empty say problems providing COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and even things as simple as soap and water for hand washing put some districts at risk of exposing their staff, teachers and students to the virus.
“For too long, education and our children have been too easily sacrificed when there is a crisis,” said Tanya Sweat of Maryland PTA, “In recent times, we’ve seen it with the Great Recession and now we’re seeing it again with the coronavirus pandemic. Enough is enough. In ordinary times, parents would have no qualms with sending their babies off to school to learn. These are not ordinary times.”
Supporters of distance learning say by making the decision now, it would give everyone at least six weeks leading up to the new school year to plan and troubleshoot around one known and understood model of learning while protecting the safety of teachers and students, alike.
The groups say the state could still make exceptions for districts where the pandemic has all, but disappeared, but that should be on a limited basis.
Read the full letter below.
Watch the entire virtual announcement below.