BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Public Schools will expand in-person learning options starting February 16.

More in-person learning options will be open to students in kindergarten through fifth grades who attend elementary/middle school as well as 9th and 12th graders who attend both traditional and transformative high schools.

READ MORE: Summer Surge: As Coronavirus Infections Rise In Maryland, Some Reveal Why They Won’t Get Vaccine; Hogan Says ‘Breakthrough’ Infections Under 1%

Since September 28, city schools have slowly expanded in-person learning for priority groups of students. Families can decide whether they want to participate in person or remain virtual.

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

“The district knows there are groups of young people who desperately need the support they can only receive in person, growing numbers of our families want this option, and has proven it can be done safely,” school officials said in a press release Thursday.

Schools CEO Sonja Santelises said two-thirds of ninth-graders are failing at least one course, a 20-30% increase that has implications for students’ long-term success.

“For us, what that means is that this is not just impact for this year’s ninth graders, it’s impact for the next four years for these young people’s careers,” she said.

Families with students that attend charter or contract schools should visit their school’s website to see plans for in-person learning.

The expansion will be in three phases with kindergarten through 2nd grade beginning on February 16, followed by grades 3 to 5 on March 1 as well as the ninth- and twelfth-graders.

READ MORE: Chaotic Pop-Up Block Parties Disrupt North Baltimore Neighborhood

Families wanting their student to learn in-person should contact their schools directly.

City schools report there have been no transmission cases at their in-person learning sites and just one case of COVID-19 transmission at a meal site since September 28. No cases of transmission between and among students and staff have been reported.

Still, middle school teacher and Baltimore Teacher’s Union representative Corey Gaber said much more needs to be done before staff can safely return.

“Forcing people back into buildings when it is not yet safe given the health data is irresponsible,” he said.

Gaber wants to see COVID-19 case rates decrease and more people get vaccinated before returning to the classroom.

Parent Keith Ford said he would send his kids back to the classroom but, “As far as their health and safety goes, I would prefer to have them stay in virtual.”

Yvette Cooper, an aunt with nieces and nephews in the school system, said the move is a good idea.

“Our kids need social activity with each other,” she said. “By them staying at home, they don’t get that.”

A Virtual Family Town Hall about second-semester in-person learning will be held at 5:30 p.m. on January 21 on Facebook and Twitter (@baltcityschools) as well as City Schools TV on YouTube.

To learn more about our Health and Safety Procedures, including air ventilation efforts, visit our Health and Safety Webpage at https://www.baltimorecityschools.org/safety-procedures.

MORE NEWS: Lamar Jackson Tests Positive For COVID-19, Misses First Day Of Ravens Training Camp

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