Baltimore will extend in-person learning to more city schools

Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore is planning to reopen more schools for in-person learning despite the spike in COVID-19 cases this winter, the city schools’ leader said Tuesday.

CEO Sonja Santelises said she wants to give more families the option of sending their children back into classrooms. Santelises cited data showing more than half of students in grades three through 12 have failed at least one course this school year to support her decision.

Santelises said she would announce more specifics about the reopening plan on Thursday.

Baltimore City is one of the few school systems in the state that continues to have students attending in-person, but those roughly 2,000 students are only a small percentage of the district’s 85,000 enrolled. Most Central Maryland students have been limited to online classes since Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon ordered schools closed in March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s announcement is likely to set off a clash with the Baltimore Teachers Union which was holding a car protest as Santelises was speaking remotely during a city school board meeting.

Santelises argued the disruption to in-person learning has been detrimental to city students.

Based on year-over-year failure rates for the first academic quarter, she said the number of students who failed classes had increased in every grade and every student group. In middle and high school, Santelises said the percentage of students failing a course rose to 60%, up from 38% in 2019.

For students in grades two through five, 55% failed at least one class compared to 30% in 2019. Nearly two in five students in primary grades had failed a subject.

Most alarming, she said, was that 68% of ninth graders failed a class.