By: Audrey Weiss
Baltimore School for the Arts students have been back in school for an entire quarter of the school year, accommodating to the updated health and revived academic policies making attending school this year different from the last.
It is easy to see the difference, even just walking through the halls, how BCPSS mask-optional policy and other factors have enabled the school to exist in a more normal state.
As the world and our community within BSA work to adjust back towards school normalcy, there are still questions about to what extent COVID-19 should be considered in schools.
“The number of covid cases have gone down dramatically from last year,” said Rosalind Cauthen, Executive Director of BSA. Cauthen pointed out how the school has only seen around 10 cases so far, compared to the number of cases last year at this point which were double or triple that amount.
BSA has followed the updated city policy requiring bi-weekly testing, communicated to students through reminder emails at the start of each testing week, and will work to stay on top of testing in an effort to contain any cases, especially as winter approaches.
Winter, the season of mass cold and flu, has also been shown to be a time of great covid spread, relating to the increase of solely indoor activities.
“I remember when we left before Christmas break last year,” Cauthen recounted. “The last day of school, we almost had to shut down because there were so many students and staff members who were affected by Covid, so there are some concerns about that.”
Cauthen continued with some advice for BSA students. “I would just like to encourage everybody to do the best that they can to take care of themselves and look out for themselves, whether that be wearing a mask if that works for you, washing your hands often, getting rest, and trying to eat food, keep your body strong.”
On the other side of the spectrum, BCPSS’ advised policy for the year is the return to grading policies from before the pandemic.
Academic policies were changed to be more lenient in the past few years to assist students because of the extreme learning circumstances. The announcement of the change back to prior to the pandemic policy, following direct district guidance, was made on class syllabi at the beginning of the year and through emails to make sure all BSA students and families were aware.
“I think the hope of the city school district is that by trying our best to return to a pre-Covid stance about work that will help us regain those lost months of learning,” Cauthen explained.
The BSA administration has still tried to find ways to support students while still following the instruction from the city.
“I am encouraging teachers to still be supportive,” remarked Cauthen after recounting the city guidance. “Allow opportunities for remastery retakes of tests, and even if you are going to get that 50% off for it to be late, still encouraging students to get that in.”
The effect of these reinstatements has yet to be observed as report cards have yet to go out, but the administration will monitor to see how students are doing.
The changes in BSA this year and bringing the school back to a state of normalcy show progress and give hope for students trying to get through high school with less extreme interruptions. However, it’s important to note the community is not out of the water yet.
New variants are still showing up, and though this may be something extremely normalized at this point, caution against COVID-19 should not be so quickly tossed aside.
“Covid is still out there and is still very real, and we can not forget about it,” said Cauthen.
“We are not in a place yet where we can sort of put this on the back burner,” concluded Cauthen. “I do think we are in a better place than we were at the height of the pandemic and I am grateful we are in a better place but we can’t forget safety, because then we will start to see a spike in numbers if people get too lapsed about it.”
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Headling photo caption:
Students walking through the lobby of BSA. Photo by Audrey Wiess for the BSA Muse.