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BPS Welcomes Students for the 2019-20 School Year
BOSTON — On Thursday, September 5, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius teamed up with teachers, staff, and city employees to greet nearly 55,000 students on the first day of the 2019-20 school year. They were joined by Boston School Committee Chairperson Michael Loconto, School Committee Member Lorna Rivera, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Boston Teachers Union (BTU) President Jessica Tang.
Cassellius began her day at 5:00 a.m., greeting school bus drivers at the district’s bus yards, before traveling to Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester, where she hugged, high-fived, and passed out pencils to students and staff with Mayor Walsh and others.
On Wednesday, Dr. Cassellius joined dozens of volunteers to knock on the doors of the homes of students who have been chronically absent and at risk for dropping out. Mayor Walsh participated in a previous effort last spring.
"The first day of school is always special for students and families," said Cassellius, who started her role as superintendent on July 1. "It’s just as special for our BPS staff who have worked tirelessly over the summer to ensure a smooth and safe start to the school year. Our priorities in the coming days are to make sure we're as ready as we can be to welcome and celebrate our students, that we're nimble and responsive if any unexpected hiccups occur, and that we're evaluating what worked well and where we need to improve for the next school year and the one after that."
Cassellius and others also visited George H. Conley Elementary in Roslindale, Patrick B. Lyndon K-8 in West Roxbury, Muriel S. Snowden International High in the Back Bay, Pauline A. Shaw Elementary in Dorchester, and Charles H. Taylor Elementary in Mattapan.
“I’m thrilled to welcome back students and teachers on the first day of school,” said Mayor Walsh. “In Boston, we're so proud of our students and all they achieve. We look forward to a great school year, continuing to support our students and schools on their pathway to success."
BPS staff have spent the summer preparing for the school year and ensuring the first day of school runs as smooth as possible for students, teachers, and families. The BPS Transportation Department began hiring bus drivers and monitors earlier, implemented more training sessions and conducted more testing of routes than in previous years. The BPS Facilities Department conducted thorough cleaning of classrooms as well as maintenance and landscaping work, while numerous community volunteers painted inspirational words on walls and helped school leaders with other preparations.
“The first day of school is a special day for parents and students alike,” said Michael Loconto, chairperson of the Boston School Committee. “BPS teachers and staff continue to do an amazing job making sure our students are happy, cared for, and ready to learn.”
Cassellius has begun a community engagement tour, which involves public discussions in neighborhoods and parent groups across the city, along with visits to all 125 schools in BPS, to help update the district’s student-focused priorities. The superintendent also launched Saturday neighborhood-based school registration sites at Boston Centers for Youth and Families community centers for the month of August to make school registration easier and more convenient for families ahead of the start of the school year.
Highlights for the 2019-20 school year include:
- Continued Expansion of the My Way Cafe School Meals Program: In collaboration with the Shah Family Foundation, this summer the City of Boston Public Facilities Department renovated school kitchens in Dorchester and South Boston so that 30 new schools can prepare and cook fresh meals on-site this school year. A total of 60 schools in BPS will now have the My Way Cafe program.
- Continued Preschool Expansion: Mayor Walsh and BPS are continuing their commitment of expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds in Boston. This fall, the nationally-recognized BPS early childhood curriculum is being used in even more community-based organizations to deliver high-quality preschool to more students.
- New Eliot School Building: The Eliot K-8 Innovation School in the North End will begin the school year with the opening of its brand new building at 585 Commercial Street, officially making the Eliot a three-campus school. Its location at 16 Charter Street serves grades K0-1; 173 Salem Street serves grades 2-4; and the new 585 Commercial Street location serves grades 5-8. The waterfront building includes 18 light-filled classrooms and 21st century learning spaces for subjects like media, arts, technology, and robotics. There is also a multi-purpose space for community meetings.
- Free MBTA Passes for Grade 7-12 Students: For the first time, all BPS students in grades 7-12 are receiving free “M7” MBTA passes to ride the subways, buses, and certain Commuter Rail lines. Previously, students had to live outside of a specific geographic radius of their school in order to qualify for a free T pass. This move is a win-win for our students, most of whom were already riding the T but can now access it at no-cost in order to commute to and from school, athletics events, after-school activities, jobs, and internships. Non-BPS students living and attending school in Boston will also receive a free M7 pass.
- Hiring of More School Nurses and Mental Health Professionals: BPS is committed to hiring additional school nurses and mental health professionals to provide additional health and social-emotional support for our students. The number of schools in BPS with a full-time nurse has increased from 78 last year to 105 now, and the district is in the process of additional hiring to ensure all 125 schools have a full-time nurse. In addition, BPS is working to hire nearly two dozen additional licensed mental health professionals over the next two years.