Boston Public Schools Returns Some Students to In-Person Learning

Mayor Martin Walsh and Boston Public School Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius announced that approximately 1,700 students across 28 schools, including the Eliot School, returned to in-person learning on Monday.

The students returning to school this week have complex disabilities and language needs and were identified by BPS as having a high priority for in-person learning. 

“After the return three weeks ago of students to our special education-focused schools we returned the next group of students on Monday, December 14,” said Cassellius. “We are communicating directly with those families in collaboration with their school leaders to outline next steps. This group includes approximately 1,700 students across 28 schools. These plans are based on families who selected hybrid learning for their students and on each building’s ability to welcome students and staff back to in-person learning. We will add free-standing air purifiers into the school buildings without HVAC systems to promote airflow.”

However, the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) passed a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Dr. Cassellius’s reopening plan. 

“The BTU has advocated to Cassellius for common sense reopening provisions such as prioritizing in-person learning for special education students, particularly those who cannot access remote learning,” said the BTU in a statement after the vote. 

Other asks by the BTU included safe ventilation and air quality standards; vents in bathrooms and working sinks with soap for handwashing; a scheduling process that takes into account pre-existing medical conditions of educators and their families; PPE for educators, nurses and staff working with students who cannot socially distance or wear masks; and access to COVID-19 testing. 

The union did not seek additional provision with regard to safety, instruction, or staffing issues covering the Eliot and the 27 other schools in Boston, but merely sought the same provisions that were formally agreed to by the superintendent for the first four schools that were opened last month. 

“These key provisions were at last agreed to with the Superintendent in November for the initial four schools that were reopened with our support for some of our highest-need students,” the statement continues. “Prior to the vote of no confidence, the union had passed a resolution calling for the same safety, instructional, and staffing provisions that exist at the four currently open schools to be extended to the 28 additional schools where staff and students will be present on Monday.”

On Monday, Mayor Walsh shot back at the BTU’s no confidence vote and credited Cassellius and her team for doing this work and prioritizing the students who most need our support. 

The Mayor addressed the vote that the BTU took over the weekend that criticized the district and the superintendent on Monday during a press briefing. 

“That action doesn’t help our collective efforts at a critical time,” said Walsh. “I value deeply the work that our teachers are doing and have done, all year, under very difficult circumstances. I am sympathetic to their concerns about COVID safety. These are all of our concerns and we are responding to those concerns. 100 percent of the safety measures that the teachers union requested are implemented in all the schools we have opened. The result is that, today, many more high needs students and their dedicated teachers and support staff are in school, working together, being safe, and learning. That’s a great accomplishment by all involved. We’re going to continue to support our teachers and school staff in that work. And we’re going to keep our promise to the families of our city to do everything we can to get kids safely back in school, where they belong. I have absolute confidence in the Superintendent and her team’s commitment to these values and this work.”

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