BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Monday was the first day back to school in person for some students as the Baltimore City Public Schools system plans to provide in-person opportunities to small groups of prioritized students at 44 schools through the rest of the first semester.

Right now, those small groups will be back in the classroom twice per week, with early learners in the buildings on Mondays and Tuesdays and older students back on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used to clean and disinfect the schools.

A number of parents told WJZ the hybrid plan has been a huge help for them.

“As his parent, I thought that he would do better with in-person because of his needs,” Anthony Hines said as he picked up his son Chase at William Baer School.

Thomas Bogetti, the parent of a first-grader, said the move was a positive thing for his son and a step toward normalcy.

His son thrives much more when he’s engaged in person with his teachers and friends, Bogetti said.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

The students who will return to some in-person learning are those who have been identified as being able to benefit most from that classroom education, including those with special needs, English language learners, homeless students and those who have fallen behind in the virtual environment.

“The continued focus for us is how can we provide for those families who have said that distanced learning is not working for their students,” Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said.

Santelises said the school system has dedicated extra funding to ensure that staff members have proper personal protective equipment as well as upgrades to make sure buildings have safe air filtration. In addition, students’ desks are spaced apart with plastic shields attached, and everyone inside buildings will be required to wear masks.

Even with those improvements, the Baltimore Teachers Union has continually said that returning to school puts staff and students at greater risk for contracting COVID-19.

“We’ve been telling y’all for the last seven months that it’s not safe right now to return to buildings,” union president Diamonte Brown said.

Four schools opened Monday, including William Baer; the other 40 are set to open on November 16.

The reopenings come as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continues to climb. In Baltimore, the state’s health department reported a total of 19,358 cases as of Monday, up 162 cases from Sunday.

On Friday, Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young implemented a number of new restrictions on indoor gatherings and restaurants due to the spike.

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Rachel Menitoff

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