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Baltimore County Teachers To Weigh In On Returning To Classrooms

John Lee

The Baltimore County teachers’ union will survey its members this week to learn what they think about returning to classrooms. This comes as the union calls on school superintendent Darryl Williams to rescind his decision to have teachers report to school buildings October 19.

Cindy Sexton, the president of TABCO, the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, said the questions in the survey for teachers will gauge how difficult it would be for them to return to classrooms and whether they believe they can do so safely.

Sexton said the questions will include, “Would they physically be able to come back? Do they have childcare concerns if they are directed to come back? Are they caring for someone or are they themselves immune-compromised?”

TABCO was planning on surveying the teachers before Williams announced Thursday the plan to bring teachers back and have small groups of students return by November 13.

“We were literally creating the questions when we got pulled into the meeting telling us this was coming out,” Sexton said.

Williams’ announcement was denounced by the union, school board members, County Executive Johnny Olszewski, county council members and others because they had no idea it was coming.

The plan is for teachers to continue to teach virtually from their classrooms. Sexton said they were told the rationale was for educators to get used to social distancing in schools before students return. Sexton believes that head start is unnecessary.

“Faculty and staff are adults,” Sexton said. “They will follow the mitigation guidelines of social distancing.”

The union sent Williams a letter Friday demanding he rescind his directive, saying it violates their September 8 agreement on working conditions. According to the letter, that plan was to remain in effect until January 29, 2021, unless all parties involved agree to change it or upon the suspension of the state of emergency.

“Did you consider the impact of your decision on the lives of your staff and their families?” the letter asked. “Did you consider the impact on the health and safety of the staff as this pandemic still rages across our state and country?”

A Baltimore County Public Schools official did not respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, when the plan was made public, school spokesman Brandon Oland said, “We want to be very careful and very safe in how we reopen. This will give everyone ample time to prepare.”

Williams has said this is an initial plan and he is open to feedback.

In a recorded phone message to parents and staff, Williams said, “From October 2 through 9, we will survey families of the students who may benefit most from in-person instruction – students with disabilities who attend separate public day schools and self-contained regional programs, as well as students in pre-school, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.” 

Williams went on to say that staff can contact human resources “so that we can ensure that our plan works for both staff and families.”

Williams plans to hold a “Back-to-School Summit” Wednesday at 5 p.m. According to a news release from the school system, the online summit will feature a discussion “about virtual instruction and the school system’s reopening plan.” 

You can find out how to log on to the summit from the BCPS news release.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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