Walsh defends Boston Public Schools’ reopening plans

Mayor Martin Walsh defended his school district’s approach to reopening as Boston Public Schools focuses in on a hybrid model as the district looks to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Walsh has spoken in recent weeks about the school district working on three plans — one for all-in-person schools, one for all-remote and one that’s a hybrid model. In a fairly unsurprising move, the mayor effectively scrapped the all-in-person version.

“We know we will not start school this year with all-in-person learning — that’s a given,” Walsh said to reporters on Friday.

He and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius indicated that a hybrid model would be their preferred route at this point, though the district is working on an all-remote plan, too, both for any parents who want to opt their kids out of in-school learning, and in the eventuality that going back to schools is deemed unsafe.

“In addition, we will need that remote learning plan in case we are asked to pivot — in case the science does change, or the virus gets worse within the community,” Cassellius said.

The potential lesson plan laid out by Boston school officials last week would divide students into two groups. One group would be in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and would learn remotely for the rest of the week — while the other group would be in-person on Thursday and Friday, and learn remote the rest of the week. Any parents who want to would be able to opt out of in-person learning.

Cassellius, who stressed the community meetings she’s held, said BPS crews are working on the school buildings to get them ready.

The plan has drawn criticism from several quarters. Some teachers have slammed the plan to simultaneously teach in-person and remote classes as “unsustainable.” Nurses have rallied outside of City Hall, and parents have complained about being left out of the process.

Asked about it at the Friday press conference, Walsh pushed back on criticism, saying “this should not become an issue” and “let’s not get political on this.”

“You’re not being ignored here in Boston,” Walsh said, reiterating several times, “we have not made a final decision on reopening.”

Both he and Cassellius acknowledged “real concerns” by nurses, teachers and parents.

The mayor said there will not be a final decision until right before the school year begins. He said he is asking the school district to send him a “more concrete” plan in the next two weeks, but then he slightly walked that back, saying he shouldn’t put a deadline on it.

Walsh reiterated his desire for there to be an element of in-person learning, as long as it’s safely possible.

“The learning gap is growing every day that they’re away from their teachers and away from their classrooms,” the mayor said of Boston’s students, who last were in classrooms in March. “Some of our families have the resources to make home learning work. Many of our families in Boston don’t have those resources.”

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