xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Communities must help mitigate inequities of online instruction | READER COMMENTARY

In this Friday, June 5, 2020 photo, fourth-grader Sammiayah Thompson, left, and her brother third-grader Nehemiah Thompson work outside in their yard on laptops provided by their school system for distant learning in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
In this Friday, June 5, 2020 photo, fourth-grader Sammiayah Thompson, left, and her brother third-grader Nehemiah Thompson work outside in their yard on laptops provided by their school system for distant learning in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill/AP)

Liz Bowie’s recent article, “Thousands of Maryland children will fall behind academically without in-person schooling, advocates warn” (July 24), struck a chord with me. I am a teacher of English language learners at Patterson High School, the very school where Liz documented the experiences of unaccompanied minors at a Baltimore high school in her award-winning series, “Unsettled Journeys,” in 2015. Many of us Patterson teachers have been back every sweltering start of the school year since Liz came and documented the struggles that our students face.

The students who are in danger of “falling behind” are the very students who we struggle for each and every day at Patterson High School. Yes, our students and families are facing significant struggles: lack of laptop devices, lack of experience with laptops, lack of reliable internet, language barriers and increasingly, our families face financial and food insecurity. Many of our families are scrambling to find jobs and income to keep food on the table. Yes, these students rely on their school to be an anchor of stability in their lives. The students and their families want to return to school and we, teachers and staff, want to go back to school, in person. However, the staff at Patterson know that safety comes first. We know that we cannot go back to school (in-person) while we risk the spread of COVID-19.

Advertisement

Unfortunately, COVID transmissions continue to rise across the nation and in Baltimore. We do not have adequate testing or contact tracing. And a crowded school building would be one of the worst places for the spread of COVID. Even with an A/B schedule, a mask policy and social distancing practices, the disease will spread. There are just too many opportunities for transmission each and every day. And as the disease spreads, the students will carry it home to their families, some of whom live with elderly grandparents and rely on them. The risk is too high. Either we teach the students in-person, or we keep our school community safe. We cannot have it both ways. Not with where we are, currently, with containment and management of the virus.

I stand by our district’s decision to open virtually in the fall. Our teachers and staff are going to do everything we can to make the virtual instruction as effective and meaningful as possible. We’ll be better prepared than we were in the spring and like every year, we’ll be energized and ready to go! If advocates are concerned about students falling behind, then we need to clamp down, lock down and get this virus under control. While we’re doing that, our communities need Wi-Fi access and laptops, as well as food and financial resources. We all need to do everything we can to mitigate the inequities that are real and present. But safety comes first.

Advertisement

Vince Tola, Baltimore

Add your voice: Respond to this piece or other Sun content by submitting your own letter.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement