School Year 2020 - 2021 Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is the first day of school for students? 

    All Boston Public Schools students will start the new school year in remote learning on September 21

    Remote learning will continue for all families who selected that option. 

    For families that selected hybrid, we will welcome students back to school on the following schedule (no sooner than):

    • October 1: Students with in-person priority* (more information below) begin two days a week
    • October 13*: Students with an in-person priority move to four days a week, depending on family preference and school’s capacity to accommodate 
    • October 22 (Group B) & October 26 (Group A): Grades K0 - 3 start
    • November 5 (Group B) & November 9 (Group A): Grades 4 - 8 start (secondary schools start grades 6 - 8)
    • November 16 (Group A) & November 19 (Group B): Grades 9 - 12 start

    *Monday, October 12 is a state holiday


    How/who are the students prioritized for four days of learning?

    Students prioritized for in-person learning:

    • Students with disabilities in public day schools
    • Students with disabilities in substantially separate classrooms
    • Students with disabilities in inclusion classrooms with high needs, as defined by the student’s Individualized Education Plan
    • Students with limited or interrupted formal education (SLIFE)
    • English Learners in English Language Development Programs Levels 1 & 2
    • Students Experiencing Homelessness
    • Students in the care of the Department of Children and Families 

    How is remote learning going to work?

    Even past the first week of school, many students will remain in remote learning. BPS has learned many lessons from the spring remote learning experience and is applying new expectations and supports for students, teachers, and families.

    The remote school day length will be the same as a regular school day. Students with disabilities and all students eligible for related services will receive their services whether they choose to learn remotely or on campus. English Learners will receive English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction remotely or on campus. These services are part of the students’ schedules. Schools will use one of two learning management systems: SeeSaw or Google Classroom. This will allow families and students to find all of their learning materials, classes, and assignments in one place. 

    Elementary students will start and end their days together greeting each other, connecting, and building relationships in an online classroom meeting. Secondary students will have a similar social-emotional touchpoint. Families will have access to a predictable daily schedule either on Google Classroom or SeeSaw. Teachers will take attendance on campus and remotely in Aspen. 

    To further strengthen remote teaching and learning, teachers have digital access to all of the district-adopted curriculum. Students and teachers access these programs and materials through Clever, our district’s single sign-on digital backpack. In addition to the curricular programs and resources previously available on campus, and now remotely accessible as well, we’ve purchased adaptive learning platforms or e-texts based on school choice: Lexia, Imagine Learning, and Sora. All schools now have access to NearPod and digital whiteboards. Learn more about remote technology here.

    The district, in partnership with local philanthropic efforts and the City of Boston, is ensuring that students have access to materials for learning at home. Early elementary students will receive an at-home learning kit at their school site, while upper elementary and secondary students will be provided with a shopping list and gift card. 

    Improving family partnership has always been critically important to student success. To better support our communication, all teachers now have access to TalkingPoints, a two-way multilingual communication platform that will allow us to ensure families receive classroom and school-based messages in their home language, and vice versa. 

    Next, BPS is providing pre-opening professional learning for our educators, social workers, psychologists, specialists; all school-based personnel. We are also creating at-home guides for families as a way to ensure their students are accessing the lessons.

    There will be a mix of real-time lessons and pre-recorded lessons (often referred to as ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’) that will be enhanced by teacher office hours, small-group work, and individual time for students to collaborate with their teachers and each other online. 

    The start/end times for the school day, exact schedules, and platforms for student engagement and learning will be communicated by schools


    How is hybrid learning going to work?

    For families who selected hybrid learning for their students, they will be scheduled for two days a week of in-person learning at their school and then learn remotely for the other three days. Students are assigned in Group A or Group B, based on a variety of factors including assignment of siblings, class size to ensure safe distancing, access to transportation, and each school’s opportunity to welcome students back into the building. 

    Students in Group A will attend school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays. Students in Group B will attend school on Thursdays and Fridays. Buildings will be fully cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized on Wednesdays. Remote learning will take place on the days when students are not in school.

    While in school, we will work to minimize contact between students and staff. Each school will have a different scheduling system to keep students in groups with each other and limit the number of teachers and other staff who they come in contact with each day.

    The day will feature trips to restrooms as usual and also time for students to take breaks from wearing their masks, preferably outside while the weather permits. Information on how access to meals is below.


    Can I switch from hybrid to remote or remote to hybrid?

    For students who selected remote, they can request a switch to hybrid through the change request form. Changes will be approved based on space available during the current marking term to ensure safe distancing. Families can request this change via this request form.  


    Can I switch from Group A to Group B?

    Families who would like to change their A/B group may submit an appeal through the central office via this form. Siblings who are in the same household will be changed to ensure they are in the same group. All other cases will be reviewed individually. 


    When will I receive my school bus assignment?

    The Transportation Department will send school bus assignments by the end of September. This will provide time to answer questions and for you to familiarize yourself with the schedule and stops. 


    Are the buildings clean?

    Yes, all buildings were cleaned over the summer. Custodians have been reporting to work and buildings are ready for students and staff to return. You can watch a video of one of our custodians walking through daily cleaning protocols here.


    What are the processes for keeping schools clean?

    Custodians have been trained on new cleaning protocols. They have a checklist for regular cleaning throughout the day. The frequency of cleaning will depend on the number of students in the building on a daily basis. All schools are starting the year with a three month supply of cleaning materials (soap, hand sanitizer, bottled disinfectant, paper towels) View photos here. all classrooms will have cleaning supplies in their rooms, and there is a plan for monthly replenishment of all supplies. The full list of cleaning supplies can be found here.


    How do we know the air in school is safe?

    BPS is following all guidelines from the CDC, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), and The American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). 

    There are three types of airflow systems in BPS: Central HVAC, Steam heat with limited mechanical ventilation, and Steam heat without mechanical ventilation. Each building type requires a different strategy.

    All Buildings: 

    • All school buildings have received preventative maintenance and repair inspections and required work conducted by the BPS Mechanical Engineer and HVAC Division, and BPS Mechanical Contractor ENE.
    • The Energy Division is monitoring all equipment in every building to ensure proper operation, and reporting any challenges or malfunctions to the HVAC Division and contracted ENE technicians. 
    • All outside air dampers have been adjusted to bring outside air into the schools. 
    • The optimal start-stop schedules have been adjusted to run all BPS ventilation equipment at the maximum capacity allowable. 
    • Systems are being monitored using the automatic temperature control for equipment failures, climate control issues, and any operational issues which may negatively impact systems operations, and schedules will be modified to operate at maximum allowable as needed. 
    • All bathroom and general exhaust fan schedules run 24/7. 
    • All univentilators have been cleaned.

    Central HVAC: Filters have been replaced, mechanical aspects have been tested. At minimum, filters are MERV-8 and MERV-10. Filters are being upgraded to MERV-13 where possible.

    Steam heat with limited mechanical ventilation: Filters have been replaced, mechanical aspects have been tested. At minimum, filters are MERV-8 and MERV-10. Filters are being upgraded to MERV-13 where possible. The primary air flow plan includes opening windows and supplementing with fans. Windows have been fixed, fans have been ordered. 

    Steam heat without mechanical ventilation: The airflow plan includes opening windows and supplementing with fans. Windows have been fixed, fans have been ordered.

    The BPS Environmental Division has hired Cashins & Associates, Inc. to conduct independent Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) testing of all occupied spaces (e.g. classrooms, offices, common spaces) at all Boston Public Schools between September 4, 2020-October 1, 2020. All results will be shared with School Leaders. This is in addition to the two school environmental audits that are annually conducted in conjunction with the Boston Public Health Commission. 


    How will we keep students and staff safe when they’re in school?

    All students and staff will complete a home health screening before leaving for the school day. Students and staff will wear masks, maintain safe distancing, and follow new procedures for entering/exiting school and moving from one space to another while in school (i.e. certain stairways marked for traveling up or down) View signs in schools here. There will be scheduled mask breaks for students during the day, planned for outside as often as possible.

    BPS has purchased two reusable masks for all students and staff members which will be delivered to schools in September. Additionally, we have 600,000 disposable masks on hand and have ordered more than 1.5 million disposable masks.


    What happens if a student/staff member gets sick?

    The school nurse will be notified when a student or staff member in school shows symptoms of COVID-19. The student will be escorted to the building’s Medical Waiting Area and assessed by the school nurse for symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

    School leaders will work collaboratively with school nurses to determine the additional staff needed to assist with non-nursing tasks such as: 

    • communicating with parents/guardians to arrange a pick up from school
    • assignment of a medical waiting room supervisory staff assistance to complete any required paperwork other than nursing documentation. 

    The school nurse will: 

    • wear appropriate PPE
      • ask the student to remove the personal mask and place it in a bag for the student to take home 
    • provide a disposable surgical/procedure mask to the identified symptomatic student
      • assess the student for symptoms of COVID-19 and for chronic conditions such as asthma and allergies or chronic gastrointestinal conditions
      • document all clinical findings within the student’s electronic health record
    • If a non-COVID-19 underlying cause is identified, and according to the nurse’s clinical judgment that this is the cause of the symptom, then the student may be treated and returned to class.
        • If a non-COVID-19 underlying cause can not be ruled out according to the nurse’s clinical judgment, the parent/guardian will be notified and the student will be dismissed with instructions to follow up with the student’s PCP to determine if COVID-19 testing or a PCP visit to determine an alternative diagnosis is medically indicated.
    • The school nurse will complete the COVID-19 referral letter and, upon dismissal of the student, give it to the parent/guardian to share with the students' PCP. If possible, the school nurse will share the referral letter directly with the PCP 
    • notify the school leader to ensure the supervision of the symptomatic student and adequate staffing of the classroom from which the student came until the student is dismissed to the parent/guardian.
      • If the student is stable, the student remains in the supervised medical waiting area until dismissed to the parent/guardian.
      • The identified staff member will monitor the student keeping a 6-foot distance whenever possible while wearing the appropriate PPE (gown, gloves, AND N95 mask with goggles, or KN95 mask with face shield, or surgical mask with face shield).

    The school leader will contact the BPS Health Services department. Health Services will contact the Boston Public Health Commission Infectious Disease nurse line, activate the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Protocol, remain in close communication with the school nurse, as necessary, to inform of additional recommendations and updates.

    Upon dismissal of the student:

    • The area where the individual was originally showing symptoms must be cleaned and disinfected. After the student is picked up from the medical waiting area, that area must be closed and cleaned and disinfected before it can be used again. 
    • BPS Facilities Management - Environmental custodial staff will clean and disinfect the medical waiting room, the health office, and any additional rooms, following established cleaning and disinfecting protocols established with the guidance of the Boston Public Health Commission.
    • BPS Facilities Management - Environmental will inform the school leader of initiation and completion of cleaning

    The full BPS District COVID-19 Symptomatic Student at School Protocol is posted here.


    How will students get food? 

    For students who are learning remotely, they can pick up meals at 21 meal sites at Boston Public Schools.

    For students who are learning in the hybrid model, meals will be provided in school via cafeterias or delivered to classrooms and will be eaten in classrooms or designated spaces specific to each building. Students can either take food home with them for their remote learning days or pick up food at 21 meal sites at Boston Public Schools. 


    How do I get a Chromebook for my student(s)?

    If you are new to BPS, we are contacting families to alert you to dates, times, and locations to pick up a Chromebook.

    If you are returning to BPS, and your student does not have a Chromebook, your student’s school will reach out to share the dates, times, and locations to pick up your Chromebook. 

    If you are returning to BPS, and your student has a Chromebook that needs repair, please reach out to your child’s school. 


    How do I get access to internet service?

    We recommend families sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials; all BPS families are eligible and will receive 60 days for free. If you need additional financial assistance, BPS will be providing vouchers this fall to assist with internet access.


    How will school partners work with students?

    As part of our efforts to ensure the safety of our students and staff, we are limiting the number of people who are admitted into school buildings. The safety measures will ensure only students and staff are in buildings on a regular basis to limit exposure and maintain groups of students and staff who are working together. As such, partners will not operate their programming from our school buildings and will continue to provide their support in a remote environment. We will continue to follow the science and review this decision on an ongoing basis. We will continue to follow the science and review this decision on an ongoing basis, and make adjustments when it is safe to do so. We are coordinating with partners and reaching out with them to identify potential spaces outside of school buildings where programming could help while maintaining all safety provisions and will communicate updates when additional information is available. 


    What is the plan for fall athletics? 

    Following guidance from the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we are moving forward with the sports that are identified as the lower risk by state officials, including Golf and Cross Country. Sports that are not executed this fall will be postponed until Spring 2021 (February 2021), where a designated competitive season has been created.