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Boston Public Schools Announces Delay in Next Phase of In-Person Learning Due to Newly Released Public Health Data

BOSTON - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - The Boston Public Schools (BPS) today announced a delay in the next phased return of students for in-person learning, following the release of public health data that showed a slight increase in the positive test rate citywide. As part of the citywide strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19, the district is pausing the plan to return the next phase of students to school buildings. The delay means that students in pre-K and Kindergarten (grades K0, K1, and K2), who were scheduled to start school no sooner than October 15 will be shifted to start no sooner than October 22, along with grades 1-3, as planned. Grades 4-8 and grades 9-12 will continue on their planned in-person start schedule, and will start school no earlier than November 5 & 9 and 16 & 19, respectively. 

All BPS students began the school year learning remotely on September 21. On October 1, BPS began welcoming back our students recognized as high priority for in-person learning. All students who have returned to BPS school buildings over the past week, or have been previously identified as high needs and are eligible to return to school buildings, will continue to have the option of in-person learning. BPS and the City of Boston will continue reviewing all data  to make further decisions based on the science.

“The guiding principles of the BPS reopening plan remain public health, safety, and equity. We continue to prioritize in-person learning for our students with the highest needs, while respecting family choice,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “This decision came down to realizing that, for so many of our highest needs students, we are their choice and we are their chance to be safe and move forward. We cannot take this chance away from them so soon after they started--not when there’s an opportunity, backed by public health, to serve them in schools. Every day matters for their progress and they deserve our very best effort. We will continue to ensure that our schools are prepared, and the protocols are in place, to protect the health and safety of our students, staff and families.” 

The public health data released today showed a citywide infection rate of 4.1%. That is slightly higher than the 4% threshold for remote learning defined in the BPS agreement with the Boston Teachers Union. The 4% threshold was developed under consultation with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), taking into consideration the number of students in BPS and capacity in buildings, and is below the suggested 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidelines.

BPHC and other state agencies have discussed the return of our highest need students to in-person learning and have determined, based on the relatively small number of students and the efforts made by BPS over the summer and fall to adopt public health protocols on safety and prepare buildings for students, BPS students prioritized for in-person learning may report to school at this time.

“We knew going into this school year that we needed to be flexible with our planning and responsive to public health data to ensure the safety and well-being of our community,” said BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius. “Our goal has been to create opportunities for the in-person learning and services that students and families have requested, and that we know many students need in order to thrive socially and academically, in a manner that is safe and responsible for our students and staff.” 

The safe, responsible phase-in schedule for the hybrid model was developed to allow BPS and public health officials the ability to track data, follow trends, and proceed with or pause the plan accordingly. All BPS families and staff were notified this morning of the change to the hybrid learning schedule in a letter sent via email in the 10 most commonly spoken languages in the district. BPS and the City of Boston will continue to keep the community updated as public health information evolves. More information on the BPS reopening plan is available at