Coronavirus

Parents Rally for Better COVID Safety in Boston Schools as Cases Surge

Families for COVID Safety is calling on education officials to "take proactive steps to stop COVID spread in our schools and communities, including fixing testing, contact tracing, and ventilation"

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Parents rallied at the State House Wednesday to call for change as COVID cases surge in Massachusetts schools.

The group, called Families for COVID Safety, is calling on Boston Public Schools and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to "take proactive steps to stop COVID spread in our schools and communities, including fixing testing, contact tracing, and ventilation."

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“Parents assume kids are getting tested and they’re not and that’s a problem. Then sometimes the kids are tested and someone is positive, but families are not contacted by contact tracers until way later,” parent Sarah Horsley said.

Michael MaGuire, a teacher at Boston Latin Academy, said he has been contacted weeks later, on some occasions. 

“The schools are open. We’re here every day. We need the cleaning. We need the testing and we need timely reporting. If they can do that, then I can do my job,” MaGuire said. 

He and others said they would also like to see more promotion of the pooled testing program. Boston Public Schools is lagging behind a lot of other districts with just over 50% of students enrolled. 

The number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts schools has effectively nearly doubled week over week, with nearly 8,000 students and staff testing positive in the past week.

Lauren O’Malley-Singh, a nurse at Brighton High School, said she is spending her own time to do contact tracing because the company the district hired to do it is not reporting the cases fast enough. 

“We had two positive cases and, had I not done the contact tracing myself, the families would not have been notified until four days later,” O’Malley-Singh said.  

The rally, which took place outside the State House Wednesday afternoon, comes as cases continue to rise in public schools in Boston and throughout Massachusetts.

The number of cases in Boston Public Schools nearly tripled in recent weeks. The district reported 345 COVID-19 cases among students and staff last week, an increase of 123 cases from the week prior, BPS coronavirus data shows. During the week of Nov. 18, there were just 156 positive cases. 

A similar jump can been seen statewide. The number of COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts schools has effectively doubled week over week, with nearly 8,000 students and staff testing positive between Dec. 2. and Dec. 8.

Parents will rally at the State House Wednesday in a call for change as COVID cases surge in Massachusetts schools.

Boston Public Schools is responding to the group’s complaints by announcing new funding for COVID prevention. Officials said they plan to spend an additional $3 million on things like expanding contact tracing and hiring more contract nurses. Those rallying hope the money will be put to use sooner rather than later. 

“If not we’re just going to have more outbreaks. We can’t wait any longer. COVID doesn’t wait,” one parent said at the rally.

State House News Service contributed to this report.

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