Walsh: Students will not return to classroom on full-time basis this fall

BOSTON (WHDH) - Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Friday said students in Boston will not return to the classroom on a full-time basis this fall due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Keeping our kids safe is our number one priority,” Walsh said during a news conference at City Hall. “We’re taking all of their needs into account…We’re not rushing to make decisions because we don’t know what the data is going to be a month from now.”

Walsh said city officials are planning for every scenario for school in the fall and stated that if schools do reopen in September, parents will have the option to keep their kids on a full-time remote learning schedule.

“We know that we will not start school this year with all in-person learning, that’s a given,” Walsh said. “Right now we are focused on all remote learning and a hybrid model for the start of the school year.”

The hybrid model would include a mix of both in-person and remote learning.

“When the kids do walk through the doors of our schools, we want to make sure that the public health experts say that it’s safe and we can do it,” Walsh explained.

Walsh noted that he is concerned with a growing learning gap due to students being away from their teachers.

“We must and we’re obligated to explore every possible way to safely bring our kids back to school,” Walsh said.

Nearly 70 percent of teachers in Boston said in a survey that they don’t feel comfortable returning to in-class learning, according to Walsh. He also urged everyone to join the city in looking at ways of safely reopening schools.

“We have many people in the school department and many people with our teachers and all of the staff and people involved in the conversation, so I just ask everyone, let’s not make an issue out of school reopening,” Walsh said.

Boston may be unable to reopen schools in September, but Walsh said students do need to return to the classroom “at some point.”

The Boston Teachers Union has urged the city to implement policies consistent with safe nursing practices, offer rapid COVID-19 testing at all schools, and provide all staffers and students with sufficient personal protection equipment before classrooms reopen.

Union members are also calling for adequate ventilation and cleaning policies, more substitute teachers and nurses, and additional staff to enforce safety protocols, as well as designated isolation rooms.

If students do end up being allowed back in the classroom, there will be an array of safety restrictions in place to guard against the transmission of coronavirus, including:

  • Social distancing of 6 feet
  • Masks required for all students and staff
  • Only one student per row per bus
  • No food served in cafeterias
  • Strict health protocols for buses and schools
  • No group gatherings if infections increase

As of right now, students and staff will not be required to be tested for coronavirus before entering the schools.

Friday marked the deadline for Massachusetts public school districts to submit reopening plans for a hybrid of in-person and remote learning, in-person learning, and remote learning

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