Mayor Marty Walsh announced Friday that Boston Public Schools will start the school year with 100% remote learning before transitioning to a hybrid model.
"On September 21st -- one month from today -- all students will begin with remote learning," he said. "The first students will not return to our classrooms until October 1st."
"We feel this is the best approach to educate our children," Walsh added. "It creates a staggered approach for our students to return to the classroom in a safe and careful way."
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Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who said Friday that "this has been a summer like no other," previewed the decision in an email to families before Walsh's press conference.
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"I and Mayor Walsh have listened to and consulted with public health experts, teachers and staff, city officials, and gathered feedback from thousands of community members in dozens of virtual meetings," she said. "With this input, BPS has decided that all students will begin the school year learning remotely. We will responsibly and safely phase into the hybrid model of learning starting Thursday, October 1. The hybrid model allows students to learn in person two days a week and learn remotely three days a week. Families with students who ave not opted in to the hybrid model, and plan to learn remotely five days a week, will not lose their spot."
After all students begin remote learning on Sept. 21, Cassellius said the phases for rolling into in-person learning will begin no sooner than the dates listed below:
• Thursday, Oct. 1: Students with the highest needs
• Thursday, Oct. 15 (Group B) and Monday, Oct. 19 (Group A): Grades K0, K1, K2
• Thursday, Oct. 22 (B) and Monday, Oct. 26 (A): Grades 1-3
• Thursday, Nov. 5 (B) and Monday, Nov. 9 (A): Grades 4-8 (secondary schools start grades 6-8)
• Monday, Nov. 16 (A) and Thursday, Nov. 19 (B): Grades 9-12
In her email, Cassellius also said families may request a change in their initial preferences selected in a form sent to families on Aug. 19. On Monday, she said Boston Public Schools will begin making calls to families who have not completed or may not have received the form to assist them with completing it. They will also email all families to confirm their selections, and will later provide a school schedule and yellow bus transportation information, as applicable.
"We definitely think it's a step in the right direction," said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang. "And while we do have many other details and other considerations to work out, this is a more adequate and appropriate timeline for what we know we need to do in order to safely prepare for the start of a new school year."
For Jesse Farren-James, who has two kids in Boston Public Schools, spring remote learning didn't go well.
"It was really challenging," the Hyde Park mother said. "I feel like they learned nothing."
But she's not sure she wants her kids in school buildings, either. She's worried about their safety.
"The corona is ever-evolving," said Farren-James. "We don't really know what it's going to do to kids and what will happen, so I'm very worried about them getting sick."
Even though school officials say remote learning has improved drastically from the spring, Farren-James is conflicted.
"My experience was my kids' teachers did that incredibly well, they reached out, they made things flexible," she said. "My children did not adapt to it well, and honestly, neither did we. They're boys, they want to play, they're not really into the Zoom, we would just try to sit with them and do it."
Last week, Walsh said that although schools wouldn't open with 100% in-class learning, he remained hopeful that there would be at least some in-person learning this year.
"We know there's going to be remote learning this year," Walsh said. "We hope there will be in person learning this year. We're planning and preparing to make sure both of them work and it's high quality."