Walsh favors ‘blended’ approach to reopening Boston schools

BOSTON (WHDH) – Starting school in Boston in the fall with all students physically returning to the classrooms would “probably be a stretch,” Mayor Marty Walsh said Tuesday, indicating a preference for a blend of in-person and remote instruction.

Like other school districts across Massachusetts, Boston has until July 31 to submit a preliminary reopening plan to state education officials, with comprehensive plans due by Aug. 10. Districts have been advised to develop plans for three models of instruction — entirely in-person, entirely remote and a hybrid of the two.

Walsh said city officials have “done some analysis” of what parents would like to see happen.

A poll of Boston parents found two-thirds want kids back in class — either full-time or part-time —  in a hybrid approach which would break the student body into groups and switch them in and out of school.

“Many parents want their kids back in school, but we want to make sure if and when kids go back to the school they go into a safe environment,” he said. “We want to take into account our teachers, our custodians, our food service folks, so I think over the course of the next few weeks we’re gonna have many conversations to talk about how we would reopen school, potentially in a blended model, safely.”

Walsh said it’s important to “continue to do that work” of complying with public health guidance around wearing masks, physical distancing and other precautions. Not doing so, he said, could have ramifications for a variety of sectors including, schools.

During a Zoom call this afternoon, Boston school officials released a tentative plan for reopening. It calls for social distancing of 6 feet, masks on all students and staff, only one student per row per bus, no food served in cafeterias, strict health protocols for busses and schools and no group gatherings if infections are outside an acceptable range.

So far, students and staff will not be required to be tested before entering the schools.

“I think that if there’s a way for us to open in a blended way safely, I think that that’s the preferred route where we go,” he said. “I think that as we look at the trends here in Boston over the last three weeks we’re trending in the right direction if you will. But again, we have to continue that trend.”

Boston schools are scheduled to reopen on September 10.

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.