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Update on in-person learning opportunities

Dear City Schools Families,

As I promised when we announced our decision to open schools in a 100 percent virtual environment in July, I am pleased to provide this update on our plans for in-person learning for the remainder of this semester. 

Our staff has done an incredible job standing up virtual learning for our students. I have enjoyed visiting many virtual classrooms where staff provides engaging and rigorous learning opportunities for our students. Teachers and school leaders have worked hard to develop their skills in delivering high-quality virtual instruction, and it shows in what I see when I enter classrooms and what I hear when I speak with parents or students.  While I’m very pleased with the virtual learning experiences we offer families, we also know that virtual learning is not working well for all our students and families.

Given that City Schools has increasingly provided in-person learning opportunities for small groups of students.  During the summer, we offered in-person learning opportunities for about 200 summer school students.  During the fall, we’ve opened Student Learning Centers, where students can safely access their virtual learning and sites offering in-person instruction to some of our special education students and English language learners.  Through these opportunities, I’ve seen family members dropping their children off so they could go to their much-needed jobs without worrying about their children and students receiving critical instruction to support their learning.  I’ve also seen that we can provide in-person opportunities safely and in alignment with health protocols.

The majority of students will continue virtual learning in November and through the rest of this semester.  At the same time, we will offer in-person opportunities to more groups of prioritized students at 25 schools that have demonstrated readiness for hosting these opportunities. Families will choose whether to participate in these opportunities or continue virtual learning for the rest of the semester. Over the next few weeks, principals at host sites will connect with families via phone calls, emails, meetings, or other means to determine their interests and develop their school plans. 

While we will continue to offer virtual learning for families who want to remain virtual, we will be looking to expand in-person learning opportunities at all schools for additional groups of students who choose to be in-person at the start of the second semester. 

At City Schools, our students benefit most when they are in the classroom with teachers who care about them.  That is particularly true for high-needs groups like early or young learners, students with disabilities, English learners, homeless students, and students who cannot participate consistently in virtual classes for various reasons. And there are other groups like our CTE students who cannot get the hands-on learning they need outside of the classroom.  For these reasons, we will make additional in-person opportunities available to more families who want them.

The health and safety of our students and staff are paramount.  We have been working closely with the Baltimore City Health Department and our Health Advisory Committee to ensure that we adhere to approved health and safety guidelines at every site, every day. Health and safety measures include mandatory face masks for staff and students, daily health screening and temperature checks, daily cleaning and disinfecting, and small class sizes to facilitate social distancing. These practices will continue as we expand in-person learning.

City Schools will continue to provide ways for you to give input on virtual learning and small in-person learning opportunities. Look for a district survey in November so you may provide feedback. Visit our website and social media channels often for town halls, polls, and surveys. Also, you may send your feedback via email reopening@bcps.k12.md.us.

Please join us for a special town hall on Thursday, October 15, at 5:45 p.m. on the district’s social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and City Schools TV – to learn more about our plan for the next steps in in-person learning and get answers to your questions.

There will be challenges, but I am confident that this is the next step in preparing more of our students to succeed and thrive. Thank you for everything you do every day.