BOSTON

BPS Students Plan Walkout to Call for Temporary Return to Remote Learning

The Boston Student Advisory Council is demanding that Boston Public Schools go remote for two weeks and that those days be counted towards the state's mandate of 180 days of in-person learning

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A group of Boston Public School students is planning a walkout Friday over COVID safety concerns, calling for a temporary return to remote learning. They also want more COVID-19 safety protocols to be in place.

The Boston Student Advisory Council, the group organizing the protest, said it will start at 10:30 a.m. Friday morning. Those who participate plan to spend the first hour calling and emailing state officials before delivering speeches about their concerns.

They are demanding the district go remote for two weeks and that those days be counted towards the state's mandate of 180 days of in-person learning.

Students in Boston plan to walk out of class on Friday to call for a return to remote learning, as a way to protect students and staff amid the COVID surge.

The group is also calling for better personal protective equipment for their teachers. They also want a better testing and contact tracing system to be in place.

"This week, because of the cold day, my elementary student and anyone else who would usually get tested on Tuesday wasn't tested and they just didn't reschedule the testing in the middle of this huge surge," said Bridget Colvin, a parent with three students in Boston Public Schools.

Dr. Uché Blackstock looked at coronavirus prevention strategies like mask mandates ventilation, testing and rates of vaccination before deciding to sending them to New York City public schools. "This is a decision that no parent should have to make, but here we are having to make this decision," Blackstock says.

Colvin, who is a member of a group called BPS Families for COVID safety, said she supports the student-led walkout.

"I would like BPS to start listening to students, teachers and families. We don't always feel like we're being heard," Colvin said.

With over 1,000 BPS staff members still out due to the surge, the district is making plans for if schools and classes should have to close. The superintendent said remote learning is a last resort and they are hopeful it will not come to that, and Mayor Michelle Wu has been pushing for more flexibility on that front.

Gov. Charlie Baker stood firm in the state's push for in-person learning Monday as some schools across Massachusetts delay students' return from winter break amid COVID-19 concerns.

But Gov. Charlie Baker made it clear this week he's not budging on the ban on remote learning.

"If the school districts not open at some point over the course of the year, they can use snow days until they run out of snow days," Baker said. "But they do need to provide their kids with 180 days of in-person education this year. And we'll do whatever we can to help them deliver on that."

Last week, a student at Boston Latin started a petition to bring back remote learning as an option for those who do not feel safe. The petition now has close to 7,500 signatures and some of the supporters plan to participate in the walkout.

On Thursday, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released its latest report on COVID in Massachusetts schools. It showed that more students tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week than in the previous two, continuing a sharp upward trend of cases in schools.

Dogs trained to sniff out COVID-19 on surfaces are being used to help stop the spread of the virus.
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