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Boston Public Schools Welcomes Students for New School Year

BPS reports highest first-day attendance on record at 80.5%; BPS and BTU reach agreement on health and safety measures

Meet and GreetBOSTON - Thursday, September 9 - Boston Mayor Kim Janey, Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson, Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and Boston Teachers Union (BTU) President Jessica Tang today visited the Orchard Gardens K-8 School as all students and staff returned to full-time in-person teaching and learning for the first time since March 2020. BPS is focused this year on supporting students’ social and emotional development and growth and has committed to aligning resources and preparation toward the goal of equitable literacy for all students.

As students returned to classrooms today, BPS experienced its highest first-day attendance on record, with 80.5% of students marked present. Today’s average morning on-time bus performance of 57% surpassed the 43% on-time morning performance of the first day of the 2019-20 school year, the last comparable school year. A bus considered "on-time" arrives before the school bell time. This morning, 96% of buses arrived within 30 minutes of the bell time.

This year, BPS is welcoming more than 51,000 students across 122 schools. The first day for students in grades 1–12 was today, September 9, while students in Pre-Kindergarten–Kindergarten will start on Monday, September 13. All students are learning in-person full-time, five days a week. There are rare exceptions for students with medical conditions who will follow established protocols to access learning.

BPS worked over the summer to prepare buildings for the new school year, including cleaning all school facilities, stocking schools with supplies, and finalizing plans to ensure all schools were prepared to follow guidance from the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on health and safety protocols.

“Welcome back students and staff! The entire City of Boston is excited to launch the new school year in partnership with our community, and I am looking forward to a great year of learning and growth for all of our students,” said Mayor Janey. “The dedicated work of our teachers is paramount, as we welcome students back for the first day of school. I commend Superintendent Cassellius and Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang for reaching an agreement that reflects our values of educational equity, opportunity and excellence. I am grateful to the teams at City Hall and BPS who worked so hard to get to this wonderful day.”

BPS has outlined the core strategies to promote the health and safety protocols in schools including a mask requirement for all students and staff, access to regular COVID-19 testing, promoting vaccines through expanded access at back-to-school clinics, and continuing the approach to ventilation that was initiated last year. All updates are posted at bostonpublicschools.org/backtoschool

Additionally, BPS increased the focus on student social emotional learning and development and wellbeing. Under the new BPS budget, all schools now have a social worker and a family liaison to strengthen communication and engagement with families. 

“I want to thank the entire Boston Public Schools team who has worked incredibly hard for today’s successful return to full-time, in-person learning for all of our students,” said Superintendent Cassellius. “We have learned a lot over the past two years and have made significant improvements to our operations, infrastructure, and relationships with the broader BPS community. As we warmly welcome students back into buildings, support our educators, and continue strengthening our engagement with families, we remain committed to living our mission of giving our students what they need to succeed.”

Highlights and preparations for the new school year include:

  • Repaired or replaced more than 12,000 windows since last year
  • Installed new MERV-13 air filters in HVAC systems
  • Updated filters in 5,000 air purifiers provided to classrooms
  • Prepared to provide regular COVID-19 testing and access to COVID-19 vaccines
  • Outlined reporting protocols for instances where there is a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 in a school building
  • Solidified an approach to learning for students who are medically unable to attend in-person learning and for students who are in quarantine or isolation
  • Delivered more than 475,000 disposable masks for students and staff who need one
  • Delivered specialized personal protective equipment for nurses and staff who support students with disabilities 

Yesterday, BPS and the BTU also reached a new agreement to confirm the approach to health and safety for the school year. 

The agreement affirms: the work BPS completed over the summer to supply schools with necessary PPE, install indoor air quality monitors, and clarify COVID-19 testing in schools; that BTU members will not be required to provide simultaneous instruction while students are learning in person, but will supply daily coursework for students who are in quarantine because of a confirmed positive case of COVID-19; and that the City of Boston will provide specific COVID-19 sick time for Union members with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19.

“Our goal is always to make sure that our students get the resources they need to receive the best and safest learning experience possible,” said President Tang. “The framework and shared priorities around health and safety that this agreement reflects are important steps toward that goal. We thank Mayor Janey and Superintendent Casseillius for their thoughtful approach toward establishing this agreement and we will continue to work diligently with the district to ensure that BPS policies meet the needs of our students, families, and educators. Through this agreement, our educators will have greater access to key resources that will help to make this year as safe and as successful as possible.”

The full agreement can be viewed here.

“As we launch the third school year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, this agreement with the Boston Teachers Union codifies the critical health and safety measures in place across our schools. The best place for our students to learn is inside the classroom, alongside their peers, guided by their loving and caring teachers,” said Boston School Committee Chairperson Jeri Robinson. “I am so grateful to Superintendent Cassellius and President Tang for their leadership and partnership as we continue to work together to ensure our students and educators have the resources and support that they need for a healthy, safe, successful school year.”

The agreement with the BTU follows an extension to the current collective bargaining agreement with United Steelworkers Local 8751, the union representing BPS bus drivers, which was reached on September 7. That agreement among the City of Boston, BPS transportation contractor, Transdev and United Steelworkers Local 8751, affirmed the shared commitment to providing students with safe, reliable transportation to schools and provided new incentives for drivers.
More information about the new school year, including a guide for families and a FAQ is available at bostonpublicschools.org/backtoschool.