The Baltimore Sun

Turn Inauguration Day into a school holiday

I teach U.S. history at a city high school, and the election has absolutely been the highlight of my year. No event in the memory of any of my colleagues has ever sparked such enthusiasm from our students. Naturally, we wanted to make the presidential inauguration an event to remember for them, and what better way would there be than to attend?

My social studies department began to plan for such a trip the week of Election Day.

We had no idea, however, that as many as 4 million people might have the same idea, raising the price of charters from local bus companies and, we expect, making a trip with 500 students on public transit to Washington that day impossible.

The inauguration also falls on the first day of my school's scheduled midterm exams, which will keep us from even doing any inauguration-related lessons that day.

We already know that many students will stay home that day to travel to Washington themselves or to watch the inauguration with family; those who remain in school will hardly be in the right mind-set for exams.

Why can't Baltimore follow the steps of other school systems in the area, such as those in Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia and Washington?

On Inauguration Day, Baltimore's schools should close for a holiday as well to let the students, staff and their families celebrate.

Kathleen Lucot, Baltimore

The writer is a teacher at Doris M. Johnson High School.

Better trams promise better Red Line service

I think there would be much more support for the Red Line's above-ground option if people understood just how different the Inekon 12T trams and the tracks many people believe would be used on that line are from the light rail system people in this area know ("Rough track for the Red Line," Nov. 23).

The tram proposed is a revision of the Skoda trams used in Portland, Ore., which were such a hit they resulted in a huge reinvestment in the surrounding community after the light rail system there was built.

We are talking here about an extremely quiet, low-to-the-ground tram that is highly maneuverable.

These trams can navigate amazingly sharp turns and narrow spaces. They are so quiet that you might not even notice them coming, and you step into them almost at ground level.

The tracks are flush with the pavement so you can drive a car right over them almost without noticing.

Based on my experiences riding the tram in Portland and a variety of other models produced by Inekon while traveling in the Czech Republic, I believe public opposition to the Red Line is often based on false assumptions.

Perhaps if major media outlets such as the Baltimore Sun did a better job educating the public about what they could expect from the Red Line, Baltimore would not be on the verge of missing out on this historic opportunity to reinvest in our city's infrastructure at such an important turning point in our nation's land-use and transportation policies.

This is one train we shouldn't miss.

Lee Watkins IV, Baltimore

Breastfeeding ensures safety of baby's milk

Breastfeeding is a stress-free solution to the worries about melamine in infant formula.

Recent findings of melamine in infant formula have probably sent countless worried parents off to consult physicians or search the Web to find out what they can about melamine and its effects.

But young parents have enough to worry about without the anxiety of thinking about chemicals such as melamine added to their child's formula. And new Food and Drug Administration safety limits may not appease parents who wonder why melamine needs to be added to milk in the first place ("FDA sets safety limit for melamine in formula," Nov. 29).

However, mothers who breastfeed know exactly what is in the milk their infants are consuming. Additionally, studies have shown significant health benefits from breastfeeding such as lower rates of sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory tract infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes and childhood leukemia.

The U.S promotes "exclusive breastfeeding" for six months in its assistance programs to developing countries.

We would benefit from taking our own government's advice.

Vanessa Hughes, Baltimore

The writer is a master's student in health science at the Johns Hopkins University.

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