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Parents, students respond to Boston’s proposed ‘hybrid’ school plan: ‘I don’t want to risk my life,’ one says

Fabienne Eliacin plans to keep her seventh grader, Leiya Silveira, home for remote learning in the fall.
Fabienne Eliacin plans to keep her seventh grader, Leiya Silveira, home for remote learning in the fall.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

As Boston reacted Thursday to a proposed hybrid schooling approach that would send students to school two days a week this fall, Mayor Martin J. Walsh assured parents that the plan is not final and they can opt out of in-person school if they choose.

“Families will also be able to opt out of returning to their classrooms and continue learning remotely,” Walsh said during a press conference Thursday.

A Boston school official announced Wednesday night that the district is considering a hybrid teaching model that would include two days a week inside the classroom and three days a week learning remotely. Students would either be on a Monday-Tuesday in-person cycle or a Thursday-Friday one, and all would learn remotely on Wednesdays.

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Meanwhile, teachers would be expected to teach both in-person and remotely simultaneously.

While some parents and students support the hybrid model, others told the Globe on Thursday that they’re concerned about the safety of sending their children back to classrooms amid a pandemic. Here’s what some had to say:

‘I don’t want to risk my life and our loved ones’ lives'

Fabienne Eliacin, of Hyde Park, said the school district is moving too quickly on resuming in-person classes, even if it is only two days a week. As a result, she’s decided to keep her daughter home to learn remotely for at least the first semester of this coming academic year.

Eliacin’s daughter, Leiya Silveira, will enter seventh grade at the Eliot K-8 School in the North End.

“My kid wants to go back to school to see her friends and teachers. . . . But we’ve seen what COVID can do,” Eliacin said. “We’ve experienced it. . . . I don’t want to risk my life and our loved ones’ lives because of people who are careless. I will take the frustration of having my child at home so that we can be safe.”

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Joshua Venter (left) with his father, David Venter.
Joshua Venter (left) with his father, David Venter.Handout

‘I miss the joy of actually doing a contact sport’

Joshua Venter, 16, will be a junior at Boston Green Academy this fall and said he would prefer to stay home from school “until it’s fully safe.”

Even so, Joshua, who lives in Roxbury, misses socializing with his friends and is eager to get back to the football field. “I’m just missing everything about it. I miss the joy of actually doing a contact sport.”

His father, David Venter, said there have been major drawbacks to remote learning, including a lack of communication with parents. But one positive, he said, is that there are fewer distractions for Joshua during remote classes because there are no other teenagers around. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s what Joshua — and many of his friends — miss the most.)

“Why do you think it’s good to go back to school?” Venter asked his son during a phone interview Thursday.

“ ‘Cause then we could see everybody,” Joshua answered.

“Exactly,” Venter said to the Globe reporter. “It’s socialization.”

Schylah Reis.
Schylah Reis.Handout

‘I would get to go to school and stay at home more'

Schylah Reis, 14, who will enter ninth grade at Boston Arts Academy in Dorchester this fall, said the hybrid model seems like a good compromise.

“It wasn’t that I hated [remote learning], but I didn’t like that I couldn’t interact with my teachers and they didn’t know how to teach some things online. But I did get to spend time with my family.” Under the hybrid model, “I would get to go to school and stay at home more.”

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Reiny Almanzar.
Reiny Almanzar.Handout

‘They might as well open it after the virus is gone’

Reiny Almanzar, 17, an incoming 12th-grader at Madison Park Vocational High School, said he would prefer to continue learning fully remotely.

He fears he will face coronavirus exposure on the buses he takes to school and at school itself, which could place both him and his family at risk.

“With the coronavirus and everything, why would we have it open for two days? They might as well open it after the virus is gone. Since I suffer from asthma, I don’t think I’ll be safe.”

Rafaela Polanco.
Rafaela Polanco.Handout

‘It’s important for his development’

Rafaela Polanco, a South End mother of an incoming fifth-grader at Blackstone Elementary School, supports the hybrid model. But she knows many parents who rely on school for child care while they work and others whose children, particularly kindergarteners and those with special needs, can’t learn as well remotely.

“If it were my choice, I’d send my son to school for at least two to three days per week, but first I need to go to the school to see the conditions and protocols for protecting his health and safety,” she said, speaking in Spanish. “It would give him the opportunity to have contact with the teacher and create a more controllable situation with fewer students to stay safe. It’s important for his development to have contact with the teacher and with other children, too.”

Khymani James.
Khymani James.Handout

‘The hybrid plan strikes a really nice balance'

Khymani James, a rising senior at Boston Latin Academy, supports the district’s hybrid proposal as the best way to strike a balance between student safety and educational access. But he issued a caution to Boston Public Schools (and schools everywhere): Be well prepared in the event that there’s a full shutdown again.

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“Moving forward . . . we need to be both cautious but also attentive and responsive to those who didn’t have a good experience with online learning. The hybrid plan strikes a really nice balance . . . I think this can be a very efficient plan that many students and families would be in support of.”

“If schools do reopen and . . . cases do start to rise, I worry that the transition will look like that of this past spring in March. [I] urge our educational leaders to have a contingency set up to ensure that if things were to have to be all virtual again that we are giving our students a much much better experience of virtual learning” than they had in the spring.

Indira Frederico.
Indira Frederico.Handout

‘The big issue now is if they’re going to be safe’

Indira Frederico, a Dorchester mother with incoming second- and fourth-graders at Russell Elementary School, said that if in-person learning is optional, she’s keeping her children home.

“Going two days is the same as if they’re going five days,” she said. “The big issue now is if they’re going to be safe. Having small kids in school, it’s a struggle for them to keep the mask and social distancing.”

“I wish they could go back in the school soon, but I don’t think it’s the right time in September. I work. I’m a full-time mom, and it will be a struggle for me if they do online learning, but I think it’s the best option we have right now.”

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Mohammed Diallo
Mohammed DialloHandout

‘The flow won’t be there’

Mohammed Diallo, 14, will enter ninth grade at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury. He worries the hybrid model “won’t feel like class.”

“The flow won’t be there,” he said. “If you’re watching the lecture, you can’t respond if you’re watching from home . . . and you’ll miss out by not having all of the students there to comment.

“You learn a lot from other students.”

Diallo worries the new system will require him to work harder to keep up.

“It will be different, but I think I’ll get the hang of it soon.”

Allison Doherty.
Allison Doherty.Handout

‘I would need to hire someone to be with my kids’

Allison Doherty, the mother of a 5- and a 6-year-old attending Roosevelt K-8 School, spoke to the particular plight faced by parents who are also teachers.

Doherty, who works with teenagers with disabilities at the city’s Fenway High School, said it will be particularly hard for special education instructors to juggle home and work responsibilities, since students with special needs may be at school in person full time.

“I am a parent and a teacher. I teach the population that may go back five days a week. If my kids . . . go back two days a week, what do I do? I am a single mother. I would need to hire someone to be with my kids and have them learn virtually. Will I get money for this? I think not.”



Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans. Bianca Vázquez Toness can be reached at bianca.toness@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @biancavtoness. Sarah Carr has covered education for the last 20 years, reporting on battles over school vouchers, efforts to educate China’s massive population of migrant children, and the explosion of charter schools in New Orleans. Naomi Martin can be reached at naomi.martin@globe.com.