A week ahead of the start of classes, Boston Mayor Kim Janey and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius on Thursday gave an update on Boston Public Schools' preparations.
It will be the first time since March 2020 when all BPS students will be in classes together, though with plenty of safeguards in place.
"While I'm very excited to welcome all of our students back to their classrooms, it's important that we recognize that this is the third school year that is being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic," Janey said at a news conference.
The first day of school in Boston is Sept. 9, next Thursday. Public school students will be required to wear masks, Janey has said, though Massachusetts education officials later mandated masks for everyone in schools age 5 and up through at least Oct. 1.
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Janey has also instituted an indoor mask mandate in Boston, done in response to the delta variant, the more contagious strain of COVID, as well as the arrival of college students to Boston and the return of students to K-12 public schools classrooms.
She noted Thursday that vaccination is "central to our strategy" for a safe year, and that school teachers and staff are covered under Boston's vaccine mandate for city employees.
The city is also investing $30 million for upgrades to ventilation, heating and air conditioning in schools.
Children under 12 aren't yet able to get vaccinated, though the push is on to get vaccines approved for that age group.
More on Masks in Schools
Beyond COVID, one issue facing Boston schools -- and many others nationwide -- is a shortage of school bus drivers. The pandemic meant a year of remote learning when drivers weren't needed, and many got new, better-paying jobs.
"My team is in the process of determining the potential impact of these challenges for our students and exploring every alternative and possible solutions," Cassellius said, adding that parents will be kept in the loop.
Bus monitors are also scarce.
There are already some problems for families whose kids go to charter schools that have already opened.
"Yesterday, my nephew, his bus was late and his mom had to leave work to go and collect him from school because he didn't have no bus," said Marva Goodman, of Roxbury.
Working parents depend on the school bus. Carolina Bent has three children in school, and she is concerned the lack of drivers will make for a long trip for her kids. But she needs that transportation.
"Especially because I'm working as a PCA and, yes, it's very hard," Bent said. "Sometimes I bring them, but not all the time, because of my job."