Education

New timeline outlines Boston students’ tentative returns to the classroom

“The best learning environment for our students is in their classrooms, with their peers, under the care of our educators and staff."

Webb Chappell for The Boston Globe, File

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For Boston families hoping to see their children return to school in person this year, the district now has a plan for bringing all kids back, starting with the highest-needs and youngest students, with high school students headed back last.

In a plan released by the school department early Monday afternoon, district officials and the Boston Teachers Union came to an agreement that would have all students tentatively back by the end of March in some capacity, according to a press release.

According to a timeline, the district has set these goals for in-person instruction:

  • Week of Feb. 1: High-needs students
  • Week of March 1: Kindergarten through Grade 3
  • Week of March 15: Grades 4 through 8
  • Week of March 29: Grades 9 through 12

Schools would use a hybrid model, or a mix of in-person learning and remote instruction, according to the release. Each phase could be delayed a week or two depending on what’s going on in public health at the time.

“Throughout the pandemic, we worked diligently to implement the appropriate planning and safety measures to allow more students to return for in-person learning because we understand the importance of providing a range of learning options for families,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in the release. “I look forward to welcoming more students and teachers back into school buildings, while also remaining committed to the continued success of remote learning for families that prefer that option.”

The union and school district officials have been at odds over reopening schools and safety protocols for students and staff. The union issued a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Brenda Cassellius in mid-December, stating that Cassellius did not follow the same agreed upon safety protocols for the 28 schools that reopened in December as the four that reopened in November. Teachers did, however, return to the classrooms.

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The district has also seen difficulties with all-remote learning, with, on average, 86 percent of students logging in for class each day.

“The best learning environment for our students is in their classrooms, with their peers, under the care of our educators and staff. This agreement charts the course for the rest of the school year and establishes a safe return to in-person learning for additional students and staff,” Cassellius said in the release. “Our announcement today provides stability and clarity for our students, families, and the entire BPS community.”

According to the announcement, safety protocols for all schools, the same as the ones used in the 32 schools currently open, include:

Limiting the number of students and staff in a building at one time to ensure social distancing,

Instituting creative scheduling and staffing, among other approaches on hybrid instruction,

Providing air purifiers into classrooms, offices and common areas or highest grade HVAC filters in schools with HVAC systems

Increasing air quality testing and reporting,

Installing data loggers that provide daily air quality measures in our schools,

Delivering additional personal protective equipment to schools for students and staff, 

Offering access to free COVD-19 testing for teachers on site or nearby their school, 

Expanding a pilot program for student COVID-19 testing, and 

Continuing to report all positive confirmed cases in schools to the school community and the public.

“Throughout the pandemic, BTU educators have long advocated for and emphasized the importance and value of returning to in-person learning, especially for our highest-need students,” BTU President Jessica Tang said in the release. “Achieving this system-wide framework for health, safety, and staffing protocols will help us do so with essential protections for students, families, educators, and administrators alike. This framework adopts important safety standards that union educators have been advocating for on a system-wide basis in order to protect the learning experience and health of not just our high-needs students, but of all students, educators, and families throughout Boston and beyond.”

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