BTU holds press conference regarding COVID-19 safety in schools

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The Omicron variant of Covid-19 has made returning to work a challenge for public employees. Perhaps no place is more challenged than our schools. The Baltimore Teachers Union held a press conference to call for enhanced PPE, greater testing among students, and increased opportunities to vaccinate students.The union believes these strategies will reduce the spread of Covid-19 and will help to keep members and the students they work with safe. The press conference featured a number of political leaders, community organizations, and parent groups who are all allies to the union and remain committed to ensuring that if students are in school, it is done as safely as possible. 

BTU member Amber Phelps noted “in order to facilitate learning for 150 students… basic safety measures need to be in place to fight the spread. We know investments in mitigation measures can keep our students and staff healthy and our attendance rates high. We also know that most students are not participating in the school testing program therefore we’re less able to identify and quarantine positive cases.”  In response to cries that students need to be in school because they can’t afford to fall behind the learning curve, Phelps reminded the audience, “students aren’t learning if they are being herded into auditoriums, cafeterias, or gyms because we are short staffed.”

The largest takeaway that BTU stressed was the need to obtain high filtration masks. The union initially requested the school district make the first week after holiday break virtual. The hope was that this would give time for students and staff to be tested, and only those who returned negative tests would return to in-person classes, while others quarantined for the safety of themselves and others. Moving forward the union intends to be in touch with members on the ground to check in with the best method of equitable distribution of high filtration PPE masks. BTU also intends to monitor the safety of members once they return.