Boston students to start the school year at home

Mayor says city will closely monitor virus rate  

FOR MORE THAN 54,000 Boston Public School students, the school year will start remotely, with plans to phase in hybrid model that mixes remote and in-person instruction as long it appears safe to do so 

At a Friday afternoon press conference, Mayor Marty Walsh, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, and Boston Health and Human Services chief Marty Martinez announced that all students will learn remotely for the first week of school starting on September 21. On October 1, students with high needs will start in a hybrid approach, although parents can opt-out of in-person learning if they choose.  

 The week of October 19plans call for preschoolers and kindergarteners to return to school, along with grades 1 through 3 during the week of October 22, also in a hybrid model. During the week of November 5, grades four through 8 will begin. Finally, high schoolers will begin a hybrid model the week of November 16. The plan is subject to change depending on the course of the pandemic. If the rate of positive coronavirus tests in the city exceeds 4 percent, Walsh said schools will shutter.  

Students will be divided into two groups, with each group attending school two separate days of the week, and all students learning remotely for three days.  

“This is not a decision where there’s consensus,” said Walsh.  

He said an email from school administrators went out to student families on Wednesday asking whether they will choose a full remote or hybrid learning option. About 8,000 parents have responded so far, or 15 percent of the district.  

“The bottom line is we need to contain this virus and keep our community safe,” Walsh said. “If we want to have in-school learning this year, that is one of the most important things we can do.” 

The announcement follows months of pressure from the Boston Teachers Union to begin school under a remote model, followed by the phase in return to in-person classes.   

“Today’s announcement represents a significant step forward toward ensuring that public health and safety for everyone are at the center of all plans pertaining to reopening our Boston Public Schools,” the union’s president, Jessica Tang, said in a statement. “While there is more work to be done, and we have not reached full agreement on every last detail, it is important to note that we are pleased to see that the time period to prepare for safety is being rightfully extended, particularly in light of the increasingly troubling data we are seeing both across the state and the nation.” 

Cassellius acknowledged the decision was difficult and took hundreds of hours of consideration.  

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

“This has been summer like no other,” she said. “No other because we’re reinventing public education and working toward a responsible and safe and successful start to the school year amid so much uncertainty. We’re also navigating uncharted waters and trying to make the best and safest decision for our community, but we’re moving forward because we know that the best place for a child is in their classroom with their teacher.” 

Cassellius said students will be able to access physical education and arts through the remote learning plan, and each student will have a tech “check-up” before school begins on September 21.