With four Boston Public Schools set to resume in-person learning for high-needs students on Monday, Nov. 16, the school district, the teachers union and Mayor Marty Walsh mutually agreed Sunday on additional provisions to keep teachers and students safe.
The Boston Teachers Union announced Sunday night that many important safeguards and protections that they had long advocated for had been adopted by the school district, including additional personal protective equipment, better ventilation and filtration, and expanded COVID-19 testing.
The teachers union says the most important safeguards were adopted by the city including free weekly COVID tests to teachers who work at these schools, and portable air purifiers installed in classrooms.
The announcement comes just hours before the Carter School, Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, McKinley Schools, and Henderson Inclusion School resume in-person learning on Monday.
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Top Boston Public Health Commission officials said last week the district "has taken all possible precautions to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spread within these four schools."
The agreement between parties Sunday was hailed as another step being taken by the City of Boston and Walsh to put public health at the center of all decisions and policies being made with regard to the operation of key systems including public education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new provisions will help to further strengthen the in-person and remote learning conditions within the Boston Public School system for both hundreds of high-needs students, and for other students learning remotely, in collaboration and in partnership with the Boston Teachers Union.
COVID-19 in Boston
In a statement, BTU President Jessica Tang thanked educators who had spoken out for increased safety and learning-quality provisions, and praised Mayor Walsh for his role in making even further improvements and commitments to various protocols regarding PPE, air quality, staffing, and more within Boston Public Schools.
“Despite some false reports to the contrary, BTU educators have consistently made clear our support for high quality, in-person learning service for high-need students–particularly those who have not been able to access quality remote learning," Tang said. "This framework that reflects the common sense solutions advocated for by union educators will make the in-person learning experience safer and higher quality for our students with the greatest needs.”
The merit of these provisions sought by union educators speak for themselves, she said.
"Our goal has always been to get our students the services they need as quickly as possible and are pleased that our highest needs students at these four schools are able to resume in person learning," Tang said. "It was through the support and under the leadership of Mayor Walsh that all stakeholders were able to reach agreement on the importance of taking these steps to protect the safety and quality of in-person learning for students.”
The teachers union says they are thankful they could come to an agreement and acknowledged that these are some of the best protections statewide.
A representative for Boston Public Schools said this week that the district worked with teachers, school officials and public health officials to finalize the reopening plans. The schools had received approval to reopen from the Boston Public Health Commission.
Boston Public Schools pivoted to full remote learning on Oct. 21 when coronavirus levels hit a predetermined threshold in the city. Earlier, some of the city's highest-need students were in classes over objections from the teachers union.