In Detention Center, Outbreak Limits Children’s Education

The Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center is experiencing a coronavirus outbreak among both staff and the youth incarcerated there. As of Thursday, at least four of the facility’s 31 youth residents and at least three staff had confirmed cases of COVID-19.

As a result, the youth at the detention center have limited opportunities for education, and many have no interaction with their teachers.

The children in Maryland detention centers typically have school year-round. Shortly after public schools closed statewide in March, teachers at detention centers also began working remotely.

“We were told that they were essentially keeping a full school schedule while we were not there,” said Priscilla Caporaletti, a career and technical education, or CTE, teacher at the Cheltenham Youth Detention Center in southern Prince George’s County. 

During a virtual class, the teacher would give a 45-minute lecture via a web conferencing platform, and students could submit written questions in real time, she said.

“Children had packets that went along with the material that we were teaching,” Caporaletti said. “They also had, like, the PowerPoint that we were displaying on the screen in front of them, so that they could write anything down that they needed to.”

After the lecture, students then had 45 minutes to complete written assignments.

Teachers worked remotely for nearly three months before returning to their classrooms on June 22.

But teachers at the Baltimore detention center left again earlier this month after testing revealed an outbreak.

The return to remote teaching is problematic because the setup has not worked as intended, said Nick Moroney, director of the Maryland Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, an independent watchdog for the state’s juvenile detention centers.

“Kids were given packets of work to do for the six hours of mandated education time per day, and they were not given any help, or any real help, or any hands-on help,” Moroney said.

He said the youth often received similar packets day after day, and it was not until June that they received grades or feedback.

Each student had only about two or three hours a week of virtual instruction, he said.

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