I have been a Baltimore City teacher for six years and city resident for nearly five years. The physical condition of our schools is unacceptable. My school is basically collapsing into a sinkhole. There are cracks in the walls and floors throughout our building, and the floors and ceilings are separating from the walls. The nurse’s office ceiling is buckling, and the entire floor is slanted. These infrastructure issues have led to rats and other rodents invading our school. Further, having poor indoor air quality, due to a lack of air conditioning and adequate ventilation, contributes to this unhealthy environment. At my previous school, it rained in my classroom when it rained outside. Despite the severity of these issues they receive little to no attention. While city schools do their best to make repairs with their limited funds, they have been minor and have had little noticeable impact.

The problems that Baltimore City faces today, and will continue to face in the future, are complex and not easily solved. A safe and healthy environment that is conducive to learning is a basic right, and it is critical to adequately prepare the leaders of tomorrow. The slight increase to the existing tax on unnecessary beverages being considered by the City Council can generate revenue to begin a large-scale renovation program. Three extra cents per soda hardly seems like a lot to pay to help keep rats and rain out of our classrooms. While a lot of work still needs to be done to identify and develop solutions that correct the root causes of these types of issues, I applaud the City Council for moving the bottle tax forward and hope to see our state leader get on board with ensuring the rehabilitation of every city school building.

Vikki Volk, Baltimore