Mayor Marty Walsh said Friday that parents will have the option of having their children learn 100% remotely even if in-class learning resumes in Boston schools in the fall.
The mayor also confirmed what he’s been hinting at for about a week -- that Boston schools won’t reopen fully for in-person learning in the fall. Right now, he said the plan is for a hybrid model of in-school and remote learning.
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"We're planning for every scenario so no matter what happens all of our students can learn in a safe environment," Walsh said. "We know we will not start this school year with all in-school learning, that's a given."
School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said parents will be able to choose whether their students attend classes in-person or whether they want to only attend remote classes. A survey will be going out soon asking parents for their preference.
"We fully understand the concerns of our families and teachers about coming back to school. I've heard form many of them," she said. "But one thing is clear to me -- we can't just throw up our hands and do nothing. We are all reinventing education, and we have to, because our children don't get a rewind. There's no do-over."
Regardless of the instructional model, she said the school district will have a fully developed plan for remote learning.
"They can opt out of the hybrid and into remote learning if that's what's best for their family," she said. "We need a remote plan in case we're asked to pivot if the virus does change or gets worse."
Walsh pleaded with parents, teachers and other school staff not to make the process of reopening schools in the fall political.
"Let's keep our kids at the forefront," the mayor said. "At some point we need to reopen school. We're going to do the work now. that doesn't mean we're going to open on the 10th (of September). We have not made a final decision on reopening. Our preferred option is to reopen in September, but there are a lot of variables that are going to be taken into account about reopening."
"If our numbers continue to stay low, we're going to base it on science," he said. "But that doesn't mean for the next five weeks we don't have conversations about what school could look like."
Schools like Berklee College of Music, UMass Boston and Harvard have all said they plan to move to mostly online learning in the fall to prioritize safety. But others are still determined to host at least some in-person classes.
Walsh said he met Wednesday with the presidents of many of Boston's universities and colleges to discuss their plans for reopening in the fall.
"We stressed the importance of testing, of isolation for students who test positive, the importance of contact tracing, we asked them to stagger move-in weekend and to monitor on-campus and off-campus students," he said. "It was a good meeting. I think they're in a situation where they're still working on trying to figure things out."