Focus on ways to safely reopen Baltimore schools, not ways to keep them closed | COMMENTARY
For The Baltimore Sun|
Oct 15, 2020 at 12:43 PM
I read with dismay Delilah Holmes' op-ed demanding a vaccine prior to reopening Baltimore City Public Schools in-person (“Don’t reopen Baltimore schools until there is a vaccine,” Oct. 12). As a Baltimore City Schools parent and as an essential worker, I feel abandoned by her and other teachers loudly protesting in-person school. I am really not interested in hearing all the things our schools CAN’T DO, I want to hear the things our schools CAN DO to reopen safely. We need specific concrete steps schools can take to open schools safely that don’t depend on unavailable technology like a COVID-19 vaccine.
I know the district is working on these plans, and I can’t wait to see them laid out in detail. If the teachers need N95 masks, then lets get them N95 masks. If the rooms need fewer occupants, than lets spread out in more rooms. If we need to offer some teachers and students with health vulnerabilities the opportunity to work remotely, then lets do that while giving those wanting and needing in-person schooling the opportunity to learn. Put a price tag on it and ask us if we’re willing to pay to educate our children, I think the answer should be a resounding “yes.” Don’t tell me it’s impossible without a vaccine; schools all over the world are doing it right now. I believe it is possible and important to open some in-person public schools now.
As a person who has continued working in-person, interacting in close proximity with clients since the beginning of this pandemic, I know that steps can be taken to maintain in-person services while providing reasonable safety protections. Grocery stores, auto shops, hospitals, gyms, restaurants, private schools and the Motor Vehicle Administration continue to offer in-person services during the pandemic. How are public schools less essential than those? Virtual learning is a poor substitute for what our kids need to learn, and our teachers should know this. My children’s teachers are making a valiant effort to teach remotely in kindergarten and first grade, however the inadequacies of computer screens to promote social-emotional and academic learning are glaring. And the burden on parents and guardians to pay for child care, rely on friends and family for supervision, and limit their own participation in the workforce is immense and disproportionately burdensome for women, the poor, non-English speakers and our society’s most disenfranchised. Please skip the ultimatum and focus on what we can do now to open our schools safely.