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More than 100 private schools in the Baltimore area are currently in the process of navigating through the decision to offer online or in-person learning for their students this fall. There are pros and cons to both offerings, and fortunately, many parents will have a choice for their students, as a growing number of these schools will accommodate both.

Three things have become clear to me as the fall semester approaches:

  1. I do not believe there is a right or wrong choice here, especially for elementary and younger middle school students. Think about having to choose to send your child to school and potentially put them in a riskier health situation vs. leaving them home alone to learn. Single parents who work outside of the home may be facing this choice.
  2. Some students will thrive, others may fall behind, and the situation may level the playing field.  A mental health practitioner shared with me that in virtual therapy groups, children who seldom participated when they were physically in the same room with others had started to speak up, and conversely, clients who tended to monopolize the conversation were more moderated. Perhaps this dynamic will play out for some students.
  3. Community can help.
    • CSFB will continue to reach out to our families and schools and ask about and listen to what they need. For example, as we learned of the lack of equipment, generous donors have provided laptops, printers, and materials and we continue to distribute these to our families.
    • Other local non-profits have stepped in shifting their focus to the most pressing needs of Baltimore’s low-income families. The Y of Central Maryland offered “Take and Go” meals and offered childcare for children aged 4 – 12 for essential workers at a time when all other childcare centers were closed. The Enoch Pratt Library is offering contactless Sidewalk Service and Community Wi-Fi mobile service.
    • YOU can help! Parents are getting creative to help their children. I have heard of many neighborhood and informal groupings of children who attend the same school who have established protocols to stay healthy and agree to limit exposure to others. These “pods” may continue to meet during the school year to support learning, help with homework after school, and assist with childcare to reduce the number of children home alone.

This copy of “It Takes a Village,” by Jane Cowen-Fletcher based on an African proverb, is super worn — we read it frequently to our children when they were young. Above all, I hope it has reminded them that our community is a village and that if we work together, we would all be safe. Let’s make this school year safe for our students, physically and emotionally as they are “IN” school wherever that may be.

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