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Letters: Waiting to open schools in Howard County until it’s safe is the right thing to do | READER COMMENTARY

Waiting to open schools until it’s safe is right

I am a senior at Howard High School, and I fully support the Board of Education’s decision to stay virtual for the third quarter. I understand that many students may be sad or angry about this decision, but they need to understand that COVID-19 is a global pandemic that should not be compared to the flu.

The U.S. death toll from the flu was 34,157 in 2018-19, but COVID-19 has led to the deaths of more than 280,000 people in less than a year. In addition, there is a vaccine for the flu, while COVID-19 vaccines are still under development.

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Howard County schools closed in March when there was one confirmed case in Howard County. There are now 50 to 100 new confirmed cases every day. Moreover, the safety of teachers, students and their family members should be of the utmost importance, but many students seem to think that their social lives matter more. Many students I see complaining about the decision to remain virtual are the same people who ignore the CDC’s guidelines and are contributing to the rise in cases. Students who actively practice actions that jeopardize public health should have no complaints about schools staying virtual.

In addition, the students who complain about the decision never seem to mention how the teachers feel. A survey conducted by the Howard County Public School System found that if HCPSS adopts a hybrid model, 24% of teachers would take leave, 3% would resign and 2% would retire. The survey also asked teachers whether they or someone they care for is in a high-risk category: Over 62% of teachers said yes, while only 37% said no. Lastly, the teachers were asked whether they have school-aged children who they are caring for: 27% have school-aged children who require child care. Who is going to teach hybrid classes if teachers take leave or quit? Why should teachers have to put themselves and their families at risk by teaching in person during a pandemic?

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If a hybrid model is adopted, schools would likely open and close frequently, as has already occurred with my aerospace engineering academy at the Applications and Research Lab. We met in person for three classes before having to return to a fully virtual environment Nov. 19. Since in-person instruction may lead to more cases, which in turn would lead to the suspension of in-person classes, virtual instruction seems like the wisest decision until a COVID-19 vaccine has been widely distributed.

Courtney Pasternak

Columbia

Where does Calvin Ball stand on council bills?

Born and raised in Mexico, it has been many years since I became a citizen, but I recall well the difficulties I faced, as does every newcomer.

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I always felt Howard County was a welcome and safe place for immigrants, but County Executive Calvin Ball’s recent actions, more accurately lack of action, have made me question that assessment. Ball, who had previously been a supporter of human rights and immigrant rights, has failed to address two critical issues with any public statement.

Released Oct. 28, the Department of Homeland Security cited critical abuses in the Howard County Detention Center including routine strip-searches of “low-custody” male detainees. These men are housed at the detention center a part of a contract Howard County maintains with ICE. They are not criminals but are being treated as such. Ball, who touted the detention center as a superior facility, has not acknowledged the report or shown any interest in taking corrective action.

Secondly, Ball has not provided any public support for County Bill 63-2020, the Liberty Act, introduced by Councilman Opel Jones, now being discussed in the council. This bill will prohibit county employees from providing information about county residents to ICE and also prohibit discrimination against immigrants accessing public services. This bill is quite similar to a past bill, which Ball co-sponsored when he was in the County Council.

We are waiting to hear from you, County Executive Ball.

Leticia Griffin

Columbia

Thanks to the Talbott Springs community

With hope, each day is a great day to celebrate kindness. In the spirit of inspiration and empathy, this unusual year has featured the nurture and growth of selfless acts of kindness and outreach across Howard County.

Since March, the COVID-19 experience has cast a spotlight that amplifies existing inequities in some of our nation’s social structures, including access to education, nutrition and essential services. In the spring, there was a whirlwind of activity to assure that basic needs for Howard County families were met as unemployment and the need to stay at home became a reality. Nine months later, as concerns for children and families remain, I am expressing my gratitude for the enduring and unprecedented support that has been provided at the most unexpected moments to the Talbott Springs Elementary School community.

With no promise of fanfare, individuals and groups have quietly stepped in to ask what is needed and to assure that our children have a learning space at home, materials to be able to engage in virtual learning, food on the table and access to needed essential services. Thank you to the Rev. Robert Turner and the St. John Baptist Church congregation for finding unique ways to provide learning supplies and holiday gifts. Thank you to Grace Community Church, Ellicott City Soccer, Talbott Springs staff and the Romack family for a fulfilling and incredibly successful desk build!

Thank you the Kindness Pantry, the Jakkobsen family, Bridgeway Church and the Oakland Mills Village for providing support for school supplies. Thank you to Talbott Springs staff, the Charlotte Savoy Group, Blessings in a Backpack, the Talbott Springs PTA and families, Columbia Community Care, the Howard County Public School System and the Howard County government for assuring that our children and families have food and services each day including weekends and holidays.

Thank you to the many Talbott Springs staff and community members who have offered to assist with assuring this winter holiday season will be one of joy for children. Thank you to the students and families who have shared moments of gratitude for our school staff. You bring joy to our work! Because of the outpouring of support for Talbott Springs Elementary School families, I maintain hope for positive energy and healing in the months ahead!

Nancy Thompson

Columbia

The writer is principal of Talbott Springs Elementary School.

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