By Rachael Cardin

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Teachers in Baltimore City have been telling the district they feel burnt out and now, changes are now being made to help alleviate some of the pressure as the school year marches on.

“We are postponing deadlines for programmatic things to start, hopefully giving an extra day the week of Thanksgiving. It’s a combination of things like wellness time being built into staff development days,” said Dr. Sonja Santelise, BCPSS CEO.

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Former city resident, Sally Kervin, said she has sympathy for teachers everywhere after many were forced to be virtual, then sent back to the classroom with all new protocols in place. “It’s like totally flipping a switch to go from virtual to in-person. I think we’re all burned out, especially educators, so if they need extra help let’s give it to them.”

“A lot of the burnout is the result of additional tasks that staff members are expected to take on,” said Diamonte Brown, President of Baltimore’s Teacher’s Union. She added many teachers do not have enough time in the day to grade papers, write lesson plans and get other daily tasks done because of the students being back and in a different capacity.

Brown said additional days off and professional development time are steps in the right direction but they need more. “Hopefully the board and Dr. Santelises are moving in a direction to give even more time and I urge the Board to work with the BTU so we can actually make certain we are providing the time structure and format of that mental health support,” she added.

Howard County is giving teachers more half days for this school year and Carroll County said they have postponed starting new initiatives for this year so teachers can reacclimate to the current state of their classroom.

WJZ obtained this letter sent Baltimore City School Staf:

“In the past few weeks, we have heard directly from our school leaders and school staff that with everything we have to do to support our students, many staff members are struggling both physically and mentally under the enormous workload. We want you to know that we hear you and are therefore taking a series of steps to support your wellness and provide some relief during this challenging time.

November 5 Professional Development Day and Wellness Afternoon
All school staff will have the afternoon of November 5, after professional development that morning, as a wellness afternoon. Staff can do something that will restore you or bring you joy – meditate, exercise, rest, meet a friend, see a healthcare provider, etc.

Thanksgiving Break
Currently, schools and offices are scheduled to be closed for Thanksgiving break on Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26. To give everyone some additional time off, we are asking the Board on November 9 to approve a change to the calendar to make Tuesday, November 23 an early release day for students and school-based staff and to close schools and offices on Wednesday, November 24. Once approved by the Board, we will communicate the schedule change with all staff and families.

Three Additional Early Release Days for Students
We are adding three additional early release days for students throughout the rest of the school year so that school staff will have additional teacher-directed time on those afternoons to plan and complete other tasks. One of the spring early release days will also be designated as a wellness afternoon for school staff. Specific dates for these early release days will be communicated along with the Thanksgiving break schedule changes once approved by the Board.

SLOs and Student Learning Plans
To give staff more time, the due date for teacher submission of SLOs has been delayed until November 12 and approval of teacher SLOs by school leaders has been delayed until December 3. In addition, the due date for Student Learning Plans has been delayed until December 23.

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Extended Learning and Tutoring
While schools that are ready can start earlier, extended learning and tutoring programs are now not required to begin until January 10.

Assessments and Core Content
We will be reducing curriculum-based assessments, as well as content in some core content areas. The academics office and school leaders will communicate this information with school staff when available.

We hope that these shifts will provide some much-needed relief to school staff. We thank all of you again for everything you are doing to support our students through these unprecedented times.”

The spokesperson for Carroll County Schools released a statement saying:

“We know how challenging these times have been for our teachers and we acknowledge and praise them for all they have done. There are no systemic new initiatives relating to teachers and we purposely did this because we wanted to give students a chance to acclimate and adjust to school 5 days a week.”

The spokesperson for Howard County Schools gave the following statement:

“A modification passed unanimously and added six additional half days for students to provide school-based staff with time to address increased staff workload and to support employee well-being. On these days, there will not be any professional development or meetings planned. Staff will be able to use the time at their discretion for professional or personal needs. The dates of the half days are:

December 15, 2021
January 19, 2022)
February 16, 2022
March 16, 2022
April 27, 2022
May 18, 2022. “

Baltimore County Schools’ Spokesperson gave WJZ the following statement:

“We have been looking and continue to look for ways to address those stresses and ease some of the strain our teachers experience, and we have taken some steps recently, such as an optional virtual work day last month. We are exploring a variety of measures, including early-release days and other workday and calendar adjustments, as well as making sure that teachers are aware of the wellness and other health-related resources available to them through their employment with BCPS.”

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Rachael Cardin