Mayor Walsh Hits Pause on Boston School Reopening After Coronavirus Cases Surge

Preschoolers and kindergartners who were scheduled to report to school the week of Oct. 15 instead will start Oct. 22

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Boston is delaying plans to reopen the city’s schools after the city’s coronavirus positivity rate climbed higher than 4%, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Wednesday.

"We all know these are trying times for everyone," the mayor said. "There are no easy choices. But we have to follow the public health guidance."

As Boston's COVID-19 positivity rate increases to 4.1 percent, Mayor Walsh pauses school reopening plan.

Remote learning began on Sept. 21 and families were allowed to opt in for hybrid learning scheduled to start this month. The 1,300 highest need students who already returned to class last week will continue with in-person learning if their parents so choose, Walsh said.

Preschoolers and kindergartners who were scheduled to report to school the week of Oct. 15 instead will start Oct. 22, Walsh said. Grades 4 through 8 are now scheduled to transition to a hybrid model the week of Nov. 5, and grades 9 through 12 the week of Nov. 16, he said.

"This decision came down to me realizing that our highest need students need the district as their choice," Walsh said. "We are their chance for success to help them move forward. We cannot take this away from them right now so soon after it started last week."

"If I or we feel it's too dangerous for that to happen, I will shut school down again," he added. "But we're making the right decision today."

The first set of Boston students was welcomed back to the classroom Thursday.

Right now, officials said there have been no discussions about shutting down in-class learning altogether.

"We're all watching carefully the public health metrics to determine if the recent uptick is a trend or if we have to continue to evaluate our current plans and adjust those accordingly," School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said.

"If we're cancelling school completely, we're in a whole different situation where restaurants and businesses are shutting down," Walsh said. "We're not at that point yet. We have a way to go before we get to that point."

Boston moved into the highest-risk -- or red -- category on the state's coronavirus risk map for the first time last week. The city had 8.5 cases per 100,000 on Massachusetts' COVID-19 risk map. Because of the change in categorization, the city did not enter the second step of Phase 3 of Massachusetts' reopening plan on Monday.

The latest community-by-community coronavirus data is scheduled to be released by the state on Wednesday afternoon, and Boston is expected to remain in the red.

Marty Martinez, the city's health and human services chief, said Hyde Park has seen a significant increase in coronavirus cases. Dorchester and East Boston, which had spiked recently, remained level and saw a small decrease, respectively.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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