Boston public school students will only return to the classroom part-time, if at all, when school resumes in September, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Friday.
“We know that we will not start school this year with all in-person learning. That’s a given,” Walsh said during a press conference. “Right now, we’re focused on all-remote learning and a hybrid model for the start of the school year.”
Walsh emphasized that city leaders have not made any final decisions about the school year. All families will have the option to opt out of hybrid learning and choose a remote-only model; families who opt out will not lose their child’s place in their school.
School leaders are basing their decisions on science, Walsh said, and the plan for returning to school will continue to be shaped over the coming weeks.
“Let’s not make it political,” Walsh said. ”Let’s keep our kids at the forefront.”
Walsh spoke Friday alongside Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, who asked all Boston residents to follow coronavirus-related precautions in an effort to safely bring students back to school.
“We can’t just throw up our hands and do nothing,” she said. “We are all reinventing education, and we have to because our children don’t get a rewind. There’s no do-over, and we know how this will continue if our children don’t have us working in their best interests. They need us to rally right now for them.”
“I’m asking all of Boston to help us bring our children back to school safely,” she said.
Cassellius also spoke about the work the district is doing to prepare schools for reopening by addressing changes in bathrooms, fixing windows, and ordering HVAC filters.
All school districts in Massachusetts were required to submit their various reopening plans by Friday to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The districts had been asked not to announce any final plans until early August.
Each district is expected to create three plans: one for entirely in-person learning, one for a remote-only experience, and a hybrid model.
Governor Charlie Baker and his administration have repeatedly encouraged schools to prioritize in-person education.
“We want to see kids get back to school because all the evidence is that it can be done safely, and for many kids, it’s a really important part not just of their educational development, but also of their social and cultural development,” Baker said during his own press conference at the State House on Friday.
Baker acknowledged earlier this week that schools should be prepared to “pivot” their plans mid-year if coronavirus outbreaks occur in specific schools or communities.
Earlier on Friday, the Boston Teachers Union released the results of a survey that found that about three-quarters of the city’s teachers would prefer remote-only teaching this fall. Of the nearly 2,000 people who completed the survey, only about 22 percent supported a hybrid model that would include both in-person and remote learning for students.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has also urged local school districts to start the year remotely, pointing to aging ventilation systems in schools that will not properly protect students and staff members from contracting the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, Boston school nurses, teachers, and bus drivers held a demonstration at City Hall to argue against reopening schools unless significant investments are made in protective gear, new staff, rapid coronavirus testing, and air ventilation systems.
“We want to go back when it’s safe,” the staff members chanted.