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The Dripby Fern Shen7:30 pmFeb 3, 20210

Amid pressure from teachers and others, Baltimore schools delay reopening

Above: Baltimore Teachers Union “car caravan” to protest plans to reopen schools. (@BTUBaltimore)

The Baltimore Teachers Union was declaring victory today with the announcement by City Schools that it has delayed its plan to expand in-person learning.

The news broke this morning while teachers and others, who have been opposing reopening amid the Covid-19 pandemic, were organizing a 5 p.m. “car caravan” protest outside of City Schools headquarters on North Avenue.

School officials said they are delaying by two weeks their plan to invite kindergarten through second grade students back to school buildings. Those students will be able to return on March 1 under the revised schedule.

City Schools listed many reasons for delaying the plan in a press release, saying officials need to:

• Provide additional time and opportunities for families to understand what in-person learning will look like.

• Offer more planning time for teachers and school staff to prepare for in-person learning.

• Identify any areas that require additional planning and resources.

• Allow additional time to implement expanded Covid testing opportunities in schools.

• Allow time for more staff to make appointments to get the first dose of the vaccine.

The release did not specifically reference the need to prepare aging buildings for a safe return by students and staff.

Documents that school officials provided to The Brew showed that only one in four of the system’s 147 buildings had completed the needed ventilation upgrades to safeguard from the potential spread of the Covid virus.

With less than a month before young students were slated to return to classrooms, officials told The Brew they expected to have classrooms ready with hundreds of recently purchased portable air purifiers.

Make use of Delay

Other schedule changes announced today are as follows:

• Kindergarten through grade 2 will begin Monday, March 1.

• Grades 3-5 and grade 9 will begin Monday, March 15.

• Grade 12 will begin April 12, 2021, the first day of the Fourth Quarter.

The release notes that “an update on pre-kindergarten, grades 6-8 and grades 10-11 will be provided in early March, at the latest.”

More Actions Needed

Applauding the delay, the BTU called for school officials to take a number of actions to ensure in-person learning is safe, including:

• Make sure school staff is fully vaccinated before returning to their facility (the two doses and a waiting period to reach full efficacy).

• Complete all school ventilation upgrades.

•Ensure that minimum health metrics (positivity rate and case rate) are reached for a week.

• Establish a “robust, reliable and proactive” testing program for staff and students.

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