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Baltimore City Schools can’t provide remote learning resources, much less those needed for in person education amid COVID | COMMENTARY

Second grade students attend virtual classes inside Henderson-Hopkins School in The Student Learning Center. The partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Baltimore City Rec and Parks for Henderson-Hopkins provides students grades K-5 with a place to learn online. The program has a separate entrance and classroom area from a second program housed at the school. Baltimore City Schools will start bringing back a limited number of students in November.
Second grade students attend virtual classes inside Henderson-Hopkins School in The Student Learning Center. The partnership between Baltimore City Public Schools and Baltimore City Rec and Parks for Henderson-Hopkins provides students grades K-5 with a place to learn online. The program has a separate entrance and classroom area from a second program housed at the school. Baltimore City Schools will start bringing back a limited number of students in November. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

I am in my ninth year teaching in Baltimore City Schools. Thank you for your attention to the matter of Baltimore City Schools' decision to begin returning students and additional staff for in person learning (“A limited return to in-person education in Baltimore: a difficult decision, but the right one,” Oct. 14). Unfortunately, your assessment misses a number of key factors, those I trust your members are unaware of, not choosing to ignore. These factors impact teachers' and other staff members' confidence and trust in the district’s decision making, communication and execution.

First, we received a districtwide email hours after the decision had been announced through news outlets. This is not a small thing; why were we put in a position of finding out in this manner before receiving communication directly? You assure your readers that while there have been issues such as a lack of soap in prior years, it will be managed by the district moving forward. With respect, the following items are also being managed by the district and as we enter week seven of instruction. My first graders lack: math workbooks, math manipulatives and ELA core texts. I plan for hours on the weekend and into the evening every night to find ways to work around these deficiencies.

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You explain that the school system would “maintain traditional medical leave of absence options” and “allow for some accommodations for those with child care concerns and other issues.” To do this, a system would need a transparent and reliable process for filing, approval and explanation of next steps. For years, I have experienced countless delays and lack of communication as I have attempted to submit and confirm FMLA paperwork, confirm salary interval changes and confirm that college credits have been applied correctly to my career pathway. Having worked in another field before becoming a teacher, the lack of consistent and reliable follow-through has been shocking and frustrating.

I believe there are school districts equipped with the right personnel and systems to support a return to in-person learning for students, families and staff members during this COVID crisis. Unfortunately, Baltimore City is not one of them at this time. We should be given better resources to make remote learning a success, not rushed back into in-person learning without proper communication and follow-through from our school district leaders. You said “if conditions are as promised, [teachers] have every right to walk out.” We shouldn’t be placed in that position at all.

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Lisa Breathnach, Catonsville

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