Boston Public Schools students will start the 2020 school year from home, Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced last Friday. Under the plan, remote learning for all students begins Sept. 21. The district will start allowing students into the classroom in phases, beginning Oct. 1, when students with the highest needs will be welcomed back.
The district will utilize a hybrid model that would allow groups of students to attend in-person classes on either Mondays and Tuesdays or on Thursdays and Fridays. Some students who receive special education or English Learner services may be allowed more weekly in-person instruction.
Hybrid learning is optional for all families, Walsh said, and those who choose to opt out can remain remote for the entirety of the week. The plan is also contingent on COVID-19 outbreak metrics, and phases could be pushed back based on public health data, the mayor noted.
“We feel this is the best approach to educate our children,” Walsh said. “It creates a staggered approach for children to return to the classroom in a safe and effective way. We’re going to continue making remote learning as high quality as possible.”
Under the plan, preschoolers and kindergarteners would be welcomed back starting the week of Oct. 15, then first, second and third graders the following week. On Nov. 5, grades 4-8 could start coming back to school, and grades 9-12 the week of Nov. 16.
Cassellius said parents are being asked to select their learning model and transit options, but will be able to adjust those choices throughout the year if they choose.
“We’re moving forward because we know the best place for a child is in the classroom with their teacher,” Cassellius said. “Their child development is precious. Our kids don’t get a rewind. The time for an equitable childhood education is now.”
Walsh said the district consulted teachers, staff, and parents in crafting the plan, adding, “this is not a decision where there’s a consensus.”
The Boston Teachers Union was among state teachers’ unions that rallied outside the State House last week to demand that the school year begin remotely, with in-person teaching phased in later when certain health and safety standards are met.
Union President Jessica Tang said Friday that there are concerns from all parties, but called the plan “a step in the right direction. I think we are definitely feeling more heard.” She added: “This is progress in ensuring that those of us that are stakeholders and most impacted by these decisions are having the opportunities to share our perspectives and expertise.”
City Councillor Andrea Campbell said she was “glad that BPS is making the decision that parents and teachers have been demanding for weeks to start the year remotely.” But, she said, it was “disappointing that we’re only a few weeks away from the start of school and the city doesn’t have a plan to identify and provide childcare seats for families.
This article was originally published by WBUR 90.9FM on Aug. 21. The Reporter and WBUR share content through a media partnership. This article included reporting from WBUR’s Carrie Jung and Reporter staff.