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Mayor Walsh, Boston Public Schools Announce Plans for the New School Year
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, and Boston Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez announced on August 21, after months of community engagement and review of crucial public health data, all students will begin the school year learning remotely five days a week. All families will have the opportunity to select to stay in remote learning for the school year or opt into a hybrid plan that will include a combination of in-person and online learning.
The announcement today outlined a phased-in approach to in-school learning, starting with students who need additional time, attention, and support to be successful. BPS will then phase-in grade levels on a staggered basis to allow for students and staff to adapt to new routines, for the City of Boston to track important public health metrics, and to provide families time to plan for the new year.
“Students, families and schools have faced incredible challenges this year, and I want to thank them for their work and patience. I know starting school is a complex decision, and our priority has always been to ensure the safety of everyone, while keeping equity for students at the forefront of every decision,” said Mayor Walsh. “This plan was developed with the input of families, educators and public health experts, and every step will follow science and public health data. For many of our students, school is not just a place to learn, but also a place for nutritious meals, care and mentoring, and social development. Throughout the school year and beyond, we will continue the work that began long before COVID-19: to close opportunity and achievement gaps, and give every single child the quality education that they deserve.”
The City is closely tracking all public health data and has partnered with BPS to establish protocols and processes to make informed decisions on a daily basis about the return to school and continued, safe, in-person learning in school buildings.
The BPS reopening plan outlines two options for families: all remote learning with five days a week of online instruction and hybrid learning with two days a week of learning in schools and three days of remote learning.
Students in the hybrid model will be assigned into Group A or Group B. Students in Group A will attend schools on Mondays and Tuesdays and students in Group B will attend school on Thursdays and Fridays. All will learn online on Wednesdays to allow for cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing of buildings. There are specific plans to work with students with disabilities, students who are working towards English language proficiency, and others who require additional time and care to support their learning.
If the public health data shows that it is safe for in-school learning the district will follow the schedule below (double dates reference the Group A and Group B starts). Each step will begin no sooner than the listed date:
- September 21: All students begin remote learning
- Thursday, October 1: Students with the highest needs start in hybrid
- Thursday, October 15 (B) & Monday, October 19 (A): Grades K0, K1, K2 return
- Thursday, October 22 (B) & Monday, October 26 (A): Grades 1 - 3 return
- Thursday, November 5 (B) & Monday, November 9 (A): Grades 4 - 8 (secondary schools start grades 6 - 8) return
- Monday, November 16 (A) & Thursday, November 19 (B): Grades 9 - 12 return
“Science and data is at the forefront of every single plan as we work to gradually and safely reopen the City of Boston,” said Chief of Health and Human Services Marty Martinez. “By phasing grades in every two weeks, teachers and school staff will have the time they need to get comfortable with the safety of their buildings and classrooms before students arrive, and allow us to monitor for any COVID activity between phases. As we have said from the beginning, these dates are dependent on public health data, and we will be closely monitoring the public health situation while creating a safe space for Boston’s students to learn.”
To inform planning, this summer BPS has engaged in more than 33 community meetings with more than 4,000 stakeholders, held in 10 different languages, including meetings with unions, nurses and public health officials, two School Committee meetings and one City Council meeting. The district has released two drafts of the reopening plan. The feedback gathered shaped the planning process, especially between the first and second drafts.
“Equity remains at the center of Boston Public Schools’ planning for a safe and successful start to the school year. This plan prioritizes meeting the needs of our most vulnerable learners, respects family choice, and is thorough, thoughtful and responsive to the feedback we have received from families and teachers," said BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. "We are excited for the new school year and will continue to support the social, emotional, and physical wellness of our students, staff and community as we lift up equity, promote health and safety, and ensure educators, staff, and families are prepared to support our students in their learning."
The City and BPS have been hard at work preparing school buildings for the return of students and staff, through cleaning, ordering of supplies and personal protective equipment, fixing windows, updating options for air flow, and developing health and safety protocols.
All students and staff in schools will wash and sanitize their hands frequently, wear masks, and practice safe distancing. Classrooms have been reconfigured and new daily procedures have been developed for routine cleaning of classrooms, hallways and bathrooms. Students who use yellow bus transportation will follow the same process, and BPS is in contact with the MBTA to plan for student transportation.
The district has also spent the summer reviewing data and feedback on spring remote learning and is strengthening this option with additional clarity on learning expectations; support for teachers, students, and families; and accountability for students making progress. This includes adopting districtwide technology platforms, a renewed focus on social and emotional learning, and additional outreach to families.
This week, BPS sent a selection form to families, available in 10 languages, asking them to indicate a learning model preference for each BPS student in their household. Next week, BPS will begin making calls to families who have not completed or may not have received the form to assist them with completing it. BPS will also email all families to confirm their selections, and will later provide a school schedule and yellow bus transportation information, as applicable. Families may also request a change in their initial preferences selected in the form before the start of the school year.
For more information about learning models, as well as the most recent draft of our reopening plan, please visit bostonpublicschools.org/reopening. Families with questions can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.