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Help: Harford school system is putting me at risk. | READER COMMENTARY

Tina Purtell, a fourth-grade teacher at Emmorton Elementary School, meets her students online for the first day of the Harford County Public Schools 2020-21 school year last month. File.
Tina Purtell, a fourth-grade teacher at Emmorton Elementary School, meets her students online for the first day of the Harford County Public Schools 2020-21 school year last month. File. (David Anderson)

I am a teacher in Harford County. Over the years, I have put up with a great deal from the central office. The list of silly, paternalistic, insulting, pointless and counterproductive decisions made is long and inglorious. However, I have never, until now, felt that I was at personal risk due to the choices made by the school system (“Schools reopening: Here’s how Maryland jurisdictions are handling the academic school year amid the coronavirus pandemic,” Oct. 8).

Harford County Public Schools is calling all teachers back to the buildings. My school will host all of 12 students. I discovered that I will be teaching a total of three of them. Since we have an alternating schedule, this means that I will have one student on one day and two on the next. I am not alone. In fact, a colleague of mine will have exactly zero students. I will be conducting exactly the same lesson I have been teaching from home. Except that now I will have to talk through a mask to the students learning remotely.

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As anyone who has tried to hold meetings virtually knows, it is often nearly impossible to make yourself understood. So what are we doing? Why are we being forced to accept this risk? The simple answer is that Harford County Public Schools decided to have learning centers for the students whose parents didn’t want them to stay at home. So far, they have struggled to find staff willing to go into the schools to act as daycare providers for the students, and as a result are unable to live up to the promises that were made. Clearly, someone realized that the system could save the money being spent on these providers and still keep the promise made to run the learning centers by having the teachers come back to the building.

I am lucky in that I am not in a high risk group and none of my family is either. However, there are many teachers with small children, and at least one of my colleagues is a recent cancer survivor. The benefit in educational terms to the students is, at best, nothing and, at worst, negative, and the risk is extreme. To add insult to injury, we have been told that if we catch the coronavirus we need to prove that it was because of our contacts at school or our absences will be counted as our problem.

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Meanwhile, the staff at the central office decided that they would not come into the building but rather work remotely because it is not safe.

Ben White, Bel Air

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