With Covid cases showing signs of resurgence in Maryland, teachers union officials pushed back today against the plans of some school districts to open for in-person classes next month.
“Caution now makes it more likely that we will be able to transition to a hybrid model later in the school year,” Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bost said at a virtual press conference this afternoon.
Bost, an elementary school teacher in Baltimore County, said arguments pointing out the low rates of transmission among children ignore the fact that adults work in schools too.
Joined by Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown and Tonya Sweat of the Maryland PTA, Bost said the risk of the virus is greater than the damage done to students trying to distance-learn without internet or computers.
“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,” says a letter the three sent to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and State School Superintendent Karen Salmon.
“A perfect solution does not exist. A safe one does” – Letter to Gov. Hogan from MSEA, BTU and Maryland PTA.
“Some will recover, some will face debilitating health consequences or healthcare bills that they cannot pay, and some will die,” their statement continues. “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.”
Impact on Black Students
Saying she wants to provide parents with choice, Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises is offering a hybrid option and an all-online option.
Baltimore Teachers Union President Diamonté Brown said opening too soon puts Black students at increased risk, noting that whiter, wealthier school districts in Montgomery and Howard counties have decided to go online-only for the first semester.
She pointed to the poor condition of City Schools facilities, including inadequate heating and air conditioning.
“There’s a narrative that opening virtually is a cop-out and that educators don’t want to return to schools,” Brown said. “We prefer in-person teaching, but we prefer our lives over everything.”
Sweat noted examples of the coronavirus spreading in environments such as summer camps, and said school closures have helped contain the virus.
“Until we can get a proven response to the coronavirus, it is reckless for parents to return their children to school buildings,” she said. “Let’s not roll the dice in late August and September.”
BTU: Not Safe Yet
Before the press conference, BTU released a statement promoting the #SafeNotSilenced campaign against in-person instruction. The statement said the amount Congress allocated to schools is inadequate.
It reads in part:
“It is our position that City Schools need to open virtually in the fall in order to protect human life, period. Only when the public health data demonstrates consistent, significant, and longterm downward trends, school facilities and public transportation are safe, the necessary resources and PPE have been procured, and the procedures and protocols have been fully worked out, THEN we can consider shifting to a hybrid model.”