The Boston School Committee heard a plan from the administration of Boston Public Schools (BPS) for its proposed plans to re-open all schools this fall in a hybrid, in-person model where students would attend two days a week in groups.
Supt. Brenda Cassellius told the Committee and also in a letter to parents that surveys and community meetings have revealed most parents are comfortable sending their children back to school in some fashion.
“We’ve learned that many parents/guardians wish for their students to return to school this fall in some capacity,” she wrote in the letter. “Under current guidelines, BPS will not be able to transport the number of students we have traditionally brought to and from school on our school buses each day. Because of the transportation limitations, and because we cannot safely fit all students in their classrooms at the same time, all in-person learning is currently not an option for BPS. Due to these reasons, we are currently exploring a ‘hybrid’ model of instruction, in which students would be assigned into groups.”
That hybrid model would have students in each school assigned to Group A or Group B. Students in Group A would go to school in-person on Monday and Tuesday, then have remote learning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Students in Group B would attend school in-person on Thursday and Friday, and learn remotely on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. All students would learn remotely on Wednesdays so that schools could have a deep cleaning and sanitization. Buildings would also be deep cleaned and sanitized on the weekends as well.
“BPS is proposing this model because it allows us to meet the public health guidelines and safety measures needed, but also allows students to benefit from being in classrooms with their teachers and classmates,” wrote Cassellius. “How our hybrid model will work is still being developed with our teachers and school leaders. Each school’s specific schedule will be determined based on the building, student needs, and other factors. We anticipate that schedules, and even the days of the week assigned to various groups of students, may be different in high schools and perhaps in K-8 schools as well.”
Already, the Boston Teacher’s Union and School Nurses are slamming the plan, and more than 100 educators and nurses sat in protest of that plan at City Hall on Wednesday.
“No students or staff should be asked to risk their lives or their loved ones by going back in person not even under a hybrid plan until all possible health and safety precautions are addressed and verified,” said BTU President Jessica Tang. “The District should work with educators, especially our school nurses, to plan and prepare for a reopening that is safe, equitable and healthy for everyone.”
The BTU said the draft reopening plans provided by BPS do not meet the standards necessary to ensure the safety of Boston school facilities, adequate staffing and supplies, and comprehensive guidance for families and school personnel regarding COVID-19. They unveiled a list of five demands.
•Policies consistent with Safe Nursing Practice must be reviewed and approved by our nurses.
•Rapid testing must be in place for quick identification of COVID-19 in our school communities.
•Sufficient PPE supplies, including fitted N95 masks for nurses and appropriate protective gear for all educators who need them must be obtained and supplied in adequate quantities by the district.
•There should be adequate ventilation in all areas; cleaning and sanitizing policies must be strictly enforced; there must be isolation rooms and safe waiting areas near health offices, working sinks in all health offices, soap and paper towels in all bathrooms, working windows, and safe drinking water. Air quality and ventilation assessments must be done and the results must be made public.
•Increase the number of substitute nurses and teachers, hire more psychologists, social workers, custodians, and other staff in order to support all students and to implement all safety protocols.
Today, July 30, there will be an online meeting for all BPS parents at 5 p.m. to learn more about these plans, to give input and to hear of any updates. Last Saturday, an online meeting on the re-opening plans drew 400 parents.
Initial re-opening plans from most school districts are due to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) by July 31.