By Marilu Velazquez
My name is Marilu Velazquez and I attend the Baltimore Leadership School For Young Women. I am against going back to school in person this fall during a pandemic because the health of teachers, students and staff members shouldn’t be put at an unnecessary risk. I believe school should remain virtual until our safety is guaranteed and assured. Going back to school in-person shouldn’t be an option right now since the virus is not under control, and students aren’t the only ones who agree on this.
This summer I participated in YouthWorks with the BTU. I also attended webinars and organized with youth leaders and activists from across the country through Youth Voices for Liberation and I completed the Peer Educator Program through Planned Parenthood of Maryland. I have been talking to a lot of youth about school for this fall.
I’ve spoken to many parents and community members who agree that going back in the fall will do nothing but cause trouble and that there should be a plan. Our main goal should be making sure every child has access to a computer and a hotspot so they can participate in virtual learning.
I have been talking to a lot of youth this summer. Students have told me that they do not believe that they or others will follow rules for social distancing, mask wearing and other protocols this fall if we go back to the building. Also, around my neighborhood and in public, I see many of my peers not following any protocols for preventing the spread of COVID. We are high school students, so I cannot imagine how little kids will act.
As a student at a charter school, the situation is even worse. We are not getting any hotspots from the district or support with laptops from the district. I am not sure whether my school has enough resources for all of us to close the digital divide.
There is another thing that I am very concerned about this school year: A lot of freshmen and juniors have to take “BRIDGE class” for graduation. If we don’t take the class then we can’t graduate. I personally emailed district leaders at North Avenue and no one responded to me. If they don’t know what’s going on, we are going to get held back. This could lead to delays in graduation.
As a young person, it seems like the adults in charge are not really taking it seriously. It’s like they are skipping the problems that can actually be solved quickly like computers, internet access, and BRIDGE projects, and instead wasting time on trying to go back into the buildings even though they don’t have a plan that is safe.
A lot of teachers don’t know what is going on. I am reaching out to teachers and they don’t know when it is safe to return to school.
I think that students can be part of the change because if they have the opportunity to voice their opinions and discuss the issues we are facing, maybe the adults in charge can make a better plan. Some students can’t speak out or don’t feel like they can. So many youth (including me) have serious issues with connecting with other people virtually. We feel like our voice is not heard.
There are lots of people who say they are “with us” but they don’t do anything about the actual problem. If adults have the ability to make change, they need to do so. The time for emails is over. If you are in the position to make something happen, then you need to do it.
Students can voice their opinions and concerns with virtual learning and returning back to school. Students can send emails to board members about their opinions or changes they would like to see happen. Students can work together to build and create a way that is effective for them returning to school. While students work together they can also work with BTU members to take action with a better education plan for virtual learning and/or returning back to school.
Marilu Velazquez worked for BTU as a Youthworks intern this past summer.