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Boston Public Schools reopening delayed due to COVID-19 surge

Boston Public Schools reopening delayed due to COVID-19 surge
© Scott Eisen/Getty Images

Boston Public Schools (BPS) delayed its reopening plan after the city saw an alarming surge in coronavirus cases. 

Mayor Marty Walsh (D) announced the setback after Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate spiked beyond 4 percent, saying his priority is “to protect Bostonians’ health and safety.”

“The citywide positive rate puts us just over the 4% threshold that we established for moving forward with our phased-in, hybrid learning plan for @BostonSchools. So we believe it is prudent at this time to pause the school reopening plan,” he tweeted.

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Remote learning in the system began on Sept. 21, and the city gave parents the option of having their children engage in hybrid learning starting this month. Preschoolers and kindergartners who were slated to report to schools starting the week of Oct. 15 will now start a week later, on Oct. 22. Walsh said at a press conference, however, that that date is contingent on the coronavirus outbreak in the city. 

Under the new plan, students in grades 4-8 will move to a hybrid model starting the week of Nov. 5, and those in grades 9-12 will do the same the week of Nov. 16.

Walsh added the “highest-needs students” in the district will continue in-person learning, which had already resumed.

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The district in total has about 54,000 students in 125 schools.

“This decision is based on the guidance of our public health experts and in consultation with state officials in public health and education. It is consistent with our decision to prioritize our highest needs students in this plan,” Walsh said.

“These are trying times for everyone. There are no easy choices. But we have to follow the public health guidance and we have to listen to those who are impacted."

Massachusetts has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, recording more than 135,000 confirmed cases and more than 9,500 deaths. Boston alone has had more than 17,700 cases and 764 deaths.

The Boston Teachers Union lauded Walsh's decision and said discussions are ongoing over how best to handle the delay.

“In light of the positivity rate exceeding 4%, consistent with and in part resulting from troubling statewide and national trends in COVID-19 spread, we support the postponement of broadening in-person learning within the Boston Public Schools that the Mayor announced today,” union President Jessica Tang said in a statement.

“We are advocating to BPS that we work together to ensure staffing is designed and aligned in ways that minimizes the safety risk to students, educators, and the community, by taking an intentional approach to prioritizing essential staff going into buildings and minimizing non-essential staff.”