Boston School Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told parents Friday evening that students "with complex needs that cannot be fully addressed through remote learning" could be returning to several BPS schools as early as next week.
The move would affect students at the Carter, McKinley, Horace Mann and Henderson schools, she wrote.
Her letter came several hours after Gov. Baker announced a rejiggered state Covid-19 risk map aimed at getting more kids back into school because, he said, evidence shows kids simply have less of a Covid-19 risk than adults and that well-run classrooms minimize the risk they will be exposed.
On Oct. 21, after special-ed and some other high-needs students had been back in school for several weeks, Cassellius and Mayor Walsh closed all city schools due to rising Covid-19 rates and said they would not let students back in until citywide Covid-19 test positivity rates had fallen for two weeks in a row.
At a School Committee meeting that night, Cassellius said officials had set a "stick in the sand" by which high-needs students would be allowed to return to school once the citywide Covid-19 test positivity rate had fallen to 5% or lower for two weeks in a row and that BPS would start its phased in return of other students once that rate had fallen to 4% or lower for two weeks in a row.
The most recent citywide number, reported by the Boston Public Health Commission for the week ending Oct. 31, was 6% - down from 7.2% the week before, but still higher than the 5.4% rate for the week officials announced the end of in-classroom learning.
Cassellius discusses the stick in the sand:
In her letter to parents tonight, Cassellius said BPS schools and staffers are ready to welcome back students for whom remote learning just doesn't work - and said BPS is now looking at how to let other students return.
In order to address those higher COVID-19 positivity rates, we are taking extra steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in our schools as we prepare to welcome back students and staff. That includes upgrading filters in our buildings with HVAC systems, making repairs to thousands of windows and adding portable air filtration units to our student-occupied buildings without HVAC; starting new, additional air quality testing; and adding access to free COVID-19 testing at or near the school buildings for staff reporting in-person.
However, some parents have noted that the new ventilation systems in some classrooms consist simply of open windows with fans, and wonder how that's going to work in a typical Boston winter.