For the first time since March, thousands of students in Boston headed back to the classroom Thursday despite the city's high-risk designation for coronavirus transmission.
Around 3,500 high-needs students returned Thursday and a similar group is slated to head back Monday. The rest of the district remains remote for now.
"Just watching the students come in with their parents just warmed my heart," said Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who was greeting students along with Mayor Marty Walsh at the Ellis School in Roxbury.
Edward Velazquez, a fifth grader at the school, said he was feeling hopeful.
“Honestly, (I'm) kind of nervous and I think the day is gonna be good," he said. “It feels kinda weird only being able to talk to kids only through the camera.”
The return to the classroom comes after a recent rise in coronavirus cases landed Boston in the red zone, indicating high-risk for coronavirus transmission, on the state's community-level risk assessment map.
Boston Public School officials have said they spent the summer upgrading buildings and classrooms, replacing nearly 300 windows and more than 10,000 air filters. There are a number of health and safety measures in place, including coronavirus symptom screenings, limited class sizes and a moratorium on visitors.
The positivity rate for coronavirus testing in Boston remains under 4%, but any increase in that metric would force the district to go back to remote learning full-time.
Walsh said the city was monitoring the situation at schools.
"We are watching the numbers very closely. We will stay in close contact with our partners over the next five days," he said.
Jessica Tang, president of Boston Teachers Union, called the return to class an "emotional moment.”
“People have been working so hard to prepare for this moment," she said. "I’m glad that we are not letting down these 3500 kids today.”