Boston Public Schools Shift to All Remote Learning Due to Spike in COVID Cases

Officials said students won't return to the classroom until there are two full weeks of falling infection rates

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Boston Public Schools announced they will be going all remote starting Thursday due to a recent spike in coronavirus cases in the city.

Students will remain in remote learning until there are two full weeks of falling infection rates.

The city's seven-day average COVID-19 positive test rate has risen to 5.7%, an increase from last week's rate of 4.5%.

“We have said all along that we will only provide in-person learning for students if the data and public health guidance supports it, and this new data shows that we are trending in the wrong direction,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the metrics and work towards our goal of welcoming students back into our classrooms, learning among their peers, supported and educated by our dedicated staff.”

"The case numbers made this really clear for us. We're working to prevent an upsurge so we can continue to move forward here," Walsh added in an interview with NBC10 Boston.

Officials had announced Friday that the earliest start date of in-person learning for pre-K to third grade students had been pushed back a week from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29 amid rising COVID cases.

Up to this point, only the highest need students had been participating in classroom learning in Boston Public Schools. Most students were already learning remotely.

"Just disappointment. I feel heartbreak for those children who desperately need social services," Roxi Harvey said.

"BPS remains committed to providing in-person learning opportunities to our students as soon as it is appropriate to do so, and will continue to prioritize our students with the highest needs for in-person learning,” Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a statement. “I know our students and teachers have been making great progress since in-person learning started on October 1 and that schools and families were looking forward to a return to school buildings. But we must do our part to slow the spread and keep our students, families, and staff safe.”

"Learning to walk, talk and do all the things that so many of us take for granted all happen by the way of school," Kelsey Brendel, the mother of a high needs student, said. "This particular group of students, high needs students, any kind of remote learning is an impossibility, not an inconvenience."

Mayor Marty Walsh has paused the reopening plan for Boston schools after the positive test rate for COVID-19 spiked.

Once the citywide seven-day COVID-19 positivity rate is below 5% for two consecutive weeks, students with the highest needs will have the option to return to in-person learning, officials said. When the citywide seven-day positivity rate is below 4% for two consecutive weeks, Boston Public Schools will restart the phased return of students for in-person learning, beginning with its youngest students. The district will also provide fully remote learning for all who choose it.

Walsh told NBC10 Boston that the city will also be revisiting its guidance around COVID-19 "across the board," including everything from restaurants, hair salons and sports.

"We want to determine adjustments that may need to be made to contain the spread," he said, noting that additional announcements will be forthcoming.

"We're certainly not at the point where we were in March and April," Walsh said. "We're not at the point we're seeing in European countries that are shutting down. But what we have seen the last four weeks is a steady increase."

"Certainly, we're not trending in the right direction," he added. "At the end of the day it's about keeping people safe and healthy."

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