BPS Prepares for First Day of School

Last week and this week Boston Public Schools (BPS) teachers, administrators and support staff have been busy preparing for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, which begins Monday, Sept. 21.

All BPS students will begin with remote learning on September 21. Then in October, BPS will gradually introduce optional “hybrid” learning for all students, starting with the highest need students and the youngest students. BPS will then introduce optional hybrid learning for additional grade levels, starting with the youngest students, and moving up into the higher grades.

BPS staff uses a fogger for cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting classrooms ahead of the school year.
An example of classroom configuration once students return to in-person learning under BPS’s ‘hybrid’ learning model.

This week BPS families received their Hybrid A or Hybrid B group and information about how to request a change to the learning model (hybrid or all-remote) previously selected. In addition, families of students eligible for four days of in-person learning received forms indicating their preference for either two or four days of in-person learning.

Mayor Martin Walsh and BPS Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius said each new phase will be contingent upon the most up-to-date public health metrics.

“From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping Boston’s families safe, healthy, and equitably supported has been our top priority,” said Walsh. “That’s why we made the tough but necessary decision to close Boston Public Schools buildings in March. In a matter of days, we began distributing Chromebooks and WiFi hotspots to students, we set up meal sites to continue feeding tens of thousands of students and families, and we transitioned to fully remote learning. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort, and one we kept up while planning the upcoming school year.”

Walsh said the city is still facing uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the values that guide the city are unchanged.

“Our plans for the upcoming school year put health, safety, and the needs of our most vulnerable students at the center of our plans,” he said. “After conducting an equity analysis and incorporating the feedback of thousands of stakeholders, we have decided to move forward with a cautious, responsible, phased-in hybrid model for the school year. In the optional hybrid model, students learn at home three days a week and attend school in-person two days a week.”

The BPS reopening plan is as follows:

On September 21, all students will start with all-remote learning.

No sooner than October 1, the option of hybrid learning will begin for students with the highest needs.

No sooner than October 15, optional hybrid learning may begin for the three grades of kindergarten: K0, K1, and K2.

No sooner than October 22, opt-in hybrid learning may begin for grades 1-3.

No sooner than November 5, opt-in hybrid learning may begin for grades 4-8. That will include grades 6-8 in the high schools that include those grades.

And no sooner than November 16, opt-in hybrid learning may begin for grades 9-12.

“In every step, families have the choice of whether to opt in to hybrid learning or stay fully remote,” said Walsh. “BPS is surveying families about their learning environment and transportation preferences for the fall. We know that many families want and need their children to be in school, but many other families are not yet comfortable with in-person learning. That’s why we are honoring family choice.”

Walsh said BPS learned a lot from the spring remote learning period. This plan is an opportunity to make remote learning more robust, inclusive, and creative.

“We are expanding technology and internet access; creating new outreach and support plans for families; developing solutions for special education students and English learners; and talking with childcare providers,” he said. “We have also spent months preparing our school buildings and training staff to protect students’ and teachers’ health. We are working with school leaders and facilities professionals to make sure every school is safe and in compliance with DESE recommendations. We will not send students, teachers, or staff into buildings that are not safe.”

Walsh said the city needs to balance keeping our communities safe while getting kids back to school, and provide quality education.

“That’s what this plan makes possible,” he said. “At every step, we will follow public health data. Every family will have the choice about when to send their children into school buildings. And we will continue the work that began long before COVID-19: to close opportunity and achievement gaps, and give every single child the quality education that they deserve.”

Walsh said he and BPS are deeply grateful to all of the teachers, school leaders, staff, families, students, and public health experts who lent their time and expertise, and helped the city consider all aspects of our plan.

“This is the most difficult chapter in our city’s recent history, and time and time again the Boston community rises to the challenge with solidarity and compassion,” said Walsh.

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