As Teachers Return, Neighbors Worry About Their Safety and Security

The Blackstone Elementary School in the South End – like many schools across Boston – has been a quiet and empty place for six months now, and as teachers return to teach remotely (starting Monday, Sept. 21) many are worried that the months of inactivity could spawn a lack of security for teachers – and eventually students.

The situation in Franklin Square and Blackstone Squares has become exponentially worse in relation to homelessness and drug use and other criminal elements since COVID-19 hit in March, and at the Blackstone Franklin Square Neighborhood Association meeting Tuesday, there was a vocal concern about those returning to the area for school.

“The need to have a plan for this because many are going to be using outside spaces for classrooms,” said Domingos DeRosa, a guest at the meeting from the South End Roxbury United effort. “It’s going to be very tough for any student or teacher at the Blackstone who walks home to be able to successfully navigate what’s going on right now in that area.”

Jamie Golden, of neighboring Barre 3 on Washington Street, said once the fall comes and it gets dark earlier, she’s worried for the teachers and the neighborhood – as it has become a sort of “witching hour” for a bad element.

“With my neighbor Stella Restaurant gone, that’s going to be an interesting corner,” she said. “I don’t know if the school dismissal time coincides with a break at the social services agencies, but there’s something there. It’s a scary time of day and it’s also when all schools and teachers are let out. It needs to be addressed. It’s going to be a very stressful winter there when it starts getting darker and not as many people are around.”

Parent and neighbor Chloe Voight seconded that, and said she would like to see a police presence in the area when students and teachers are leaving school buildings. She suggested the D-4 bike patrol make the Blackstone School area a priority during drop-off in the morning, and dismissal in the evening.

Blackstone President Toni Crothall and Secretary Jon Alves said agreed that was a good idea and planned to suggest it to Capt. Steve Sweeny at D-4. Both said safety is much more of a concern now than it might have been at the school before COVID-19.

EXCITED TO RETURN

Blackstone teacher and South End resident Emmie Lindholm talked to the Association on Tuesday about how excited she is to return to teaching 5th grade on Monday, Sept. 21 – even if just remotely.

She said they have be in the school preparing for remote learning, and she had to remove her ‘March Objectives’ from the classroom bulletin board this week. She said she was very happy to be back.

“I love the school and I love the students and I love this community,” she said. “In the spring, most of the faculty at the Blackstone School worked really hard and it was all hands on deck to get through the school year successfully. We all thought we could push through and be back in the classroom in the fall. I kind of came to terms with the fact that we wouldn’t be going back in July or August. That was a hard pill to swallow, to realize I have to totally reinvent the way that I am an educator to make sure I’m be best teacher for my students.”

She said she doesn’t have any students that are high-risk, so there won’t be any students in her classroom likely until November.

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