Baltimore’s northwesterly neighbors have deemed the city safe enough once again for their students to visit for field trips.
Carroll County Public Schools on Friday lifted its suspension on field trips to Baltimore after developing new restrictive protocols for sending students into the city, the school system announced.
County Sheriff James DeWees, who in late November advised administrators to temporarily ban Baltimore-bound field trips due to “the escalating violence,” said in a statement that his office and Schools Superintendent Stephen Guthrie “brought about positive changes that will ensure that student and staff safety is our paramount concern regardless of where they travel.”
Among the new rules and restrictions: Students cannot be left unsupervised at any point; school principals and directors must evaluate risks associated with travel routes, venue security and students’ age, special needs and supervision before approving any field trip; and Baltimore police should be notified of any planned trip at least five days beforehand.
School administrators will need to submit this special “City Watch field trip notification form” to let city police know they’re coming to town. The Carroll County Times reports this policy has actually been in effect since the unrest of spring 2015, but now falls under the responsibility of the school system’s supervisor of school security and emergency management.
Carroll County Public Schools also said in its announcement that there will be “tighter communication protocols among teachers, chaperones, and bus drivers on field trips and a reduction of unstructured time.”
The ban was prompted in part by a few scares, including an incident in which students were on a field trip at Rash Field in the Inner Harbor when a parent spotted a teen holding a gun in the bleachers. (It turned out to be a replica firearm; police arrested the 15-year-old without incident that same day, on Nov. 3.)
Baltimore hasn’t become wildly safer since then, though the temporary suspension did bring the issue some political shine. Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh have both made announcements about future or recent violence-reduction measures since then, which apparently helped appease the school system’s decision makers.
“We appreciate their efforts and the steps they are taking to enhance security,” Guthrie said in a statement.
City Councilman Zeke Cohen went straight to the man who made the call to cut off field trips to see if he could convince him to change his mind. The first-term Democratic lawmaker met up with DeWees, a Republican, for breakfast on Dec. 1 to talk about their “different world views,” Cohen wrote on Facebook.
“We spoke candidly about violence,” Cohen wrote after the announcement of the lifted ban roughly a week later. “Despite our geographic distance and political differences, our fates are linked. A healthy Baltimore means a healthy Maryland.”
The school system said it didn’t receive any field trip requests for the month of December during the two weeks that they were banned. Trips will be reinstated on Jan. 2, 2018.
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