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Demonstrators rally in Towson against school closures amid COVID-19 pandemic

A demonstrator speaks in a rally organized by Return2Learn Maryland Schools on Saturday as they called for schools to re-open even amid a COVID-19 nationwide pandemic.
A demonstrator speaks in a rally organized by Return2Learn Maryland Schools on Saturday as they called for schools to re-open even amid a COVID-19 nationwide pandemic. (Phillip Jackson)

A group of 20 people held a small rally in Towson on Saturday calling for the opening of schools in Baltimore County as COVID-19 cases continue to amass throughout the country.

The group of demonstrators who met for a “Family Fun Day” gathered at Patriot Plaza as speakers took the microphone to speak on why they think schools should be open amid a nationwide pandemic. None of the protesters had masks on as they demonstrated and gave speeches about the need to open schools in the state.

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Christina Olson, the founder of the nonprofit advocacy group Return2Learn Maryland Schools, said it is imperative that students are put back in the classroom even as measures on to how students would co-habitat in a classroom together have not yet been established.

Olson said that people need to look at the “evidence-based facts” and not use students as a “political pawn” to close schools. Not all students have access to resources they need for schools like internet, writing and reading materials and other supplies they may need at their homes, she said.

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“The teachers should be considered essential employees,” she said in an interview. Olson says other teachers who become higher risk should be allowed to teach kids remotely.

Other speakers included Kenny Kiler, a Carroll County Board of Education member who spoke in favor of reopening schools. Kiler said the kids “need to be back” in school and they need to be “socializing” among one another.

Baltimore County is still discussing options on reopening schools in the fall. The first scenario would maintain all-remote learning if Maryland and Baltimore County return to Phase 1 of reopening, which could happen if the state sees a new spike in COVID-19 cases. If Maryland and Baltimore County are still in Phase 2, the school system would reopen schools at 30% to 35% capacity with strict social distancing guidelines.

Baltimore County and Maryland are both currently in Phase 2 of Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus recovery plan.

Maryland reported 557 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and seven new deaths in the state on Saturday.

Despite statewide increases, Kiler also agrees teachers who are cautious may need to resort to distance learning. He said he believes the school systems can properly protect both students and teachers, and that unless children have underlying health conditions, they won’t be severely affected by the virus.

“My concern as a Board of Ed person is we need the state to tell us as soon as possible so we can properly plan on what to do before Labor Day gets here,” Kiler said.

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