The Baltimore Teachers Union president urged parents not to send students back when city schools reopen in November, saying the schools are not going to be safe for teachers and students.
Baltimore City school leaders announced Wednesday a plan to bring back a select group of students in mid-November to about 25 schools. They said they will require students and staff to follow safety protocols.
However, BTU leadership said they don’t believe the planning is complete or that it will be carried out well enough in schools to warrant sending students back. The BTU wants the school board to vote to keep schools closed until mid-January, the end of the first semester.
“What we know is the buildings are not safe for our staff or students to be in at this time,” said Diamonte Brown, the president of the BTU.
Brown said the union “is prepared to take actions to continue to fight for the lives our our students and staff,” but would not give details about what actions they might take to try to prevent schools from reopening.
Brown said one action the community could take is to not send their children back.
“We are pleading with you because we don’t have a choice. You all do. Parents they are giving you a choice. You have a choice to opt in to unsafe conditions we are telling you about. If you opt in, we are forced in,” Brown said.
Union leadership said they had examples of secretaries now working in school buildings who did not have the proper equipment to prevent infection, and they distrust administrators to carry out the 70-page safety guidelines the school system has written.
“Yes, the plan is there. The district needs to finish their plans, implement the plans with fidelity,” Brown said.
Brown dismissed Santelises' concern for the students who are falling behind.
“The learning loss of our students does not outweigh death,” she said.
The school system issued a statement Thursday saying that it would provide in-person options for learning to small groups of students and will give parents the option to have their children continue to learn online.
“We need the support of our teachers and other community members' to ensure students receive the necessary educational care. We look forward to keeping the communication lines open with the union and all Baltimore City stakeholders,” the school district’s statement said.