BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimore City Public Schools hosted a State of The District Address this morning to help prepare for the upcoming school year. District leaders said the pandemic has not only highlighted some of the challenges but also its strengths.

This year, district leaders said city schools will invest in student recovery and growth.

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“This year was unprecedented. It was incredibly demanding,” said Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

After over a year of pivoting and adapting to virtual and hybrid learning, students, parents and educators are ready to enter the upcoming 2021-2022 academic year back in the classrooms.

“It’s been a bit crazy going back and forth,” said Jeremy Thatcher, Parent.

“I didn’t like being on zoom because I couldn’t really play with my friends,” said Aislinn Thatcher, Fifth Grader.

“I miss my friends and my teachers,” said Maeve Thatcher, Second Grader.

At Tuesday’s State of The District Address for Baltimore City Public Schools, leaders reflected on the past year, celebrated the progress and detailed existing challenges to overcome.

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“The school system is still facing a reckoning of decades of chronic underfunding, lesser engagement and frankly weak academic expectations and we can’t blame Covid solely for this,” said Santelises.

In preparation for returning back to in-person learning, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO highlighted the district’s “reconnect, restore and re-imagine” effort that’s being implemented.

“Teachers will develop individualized student learning plans by the end of the first quarter to provide guided to families and to address any unfinished learning caused by the pandemic,” said Santelesis.

Parents like Jeremy Thatcher said it’s reassuring to learn school leaders are focused on re-building off the many set-backs students have experienced over the past year.

“It makes me feel pretty good. I mean they’re trying to catch up and they’re looking towards the mistakes that were made by just playing catch up,” said Thatcher.

“We have a lot of work to do but the message is were moving in the right direction. We have momentum and we have strength to build on,” said Santelesis.

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In addition, schools across Baltimore City will also have additional social workers to provide support for students and families as they return.