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BPS reverses course, decides to let some special-ed students return to schools despite coronavirus rates higher than when they re-closed schools

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.

PDF icon Cassellius's e-mail85.65 KB



The citywide positivity rate as of October 31st is 7.2%, not 6% as you stated.

East Boston, Dorchester, Roslindale and Roxbury are all above 8%.

But we do need to get students back to school. If the city were to spend money on air purifiers and air filters and PPE I think we could get a decent number of schools to re-open for students with high needs. Spend the money, make it a priority, show us that you care.

Voting closed 21

"If the city were to spend money on air purifiers, air filters, and PPE" You want to completely redesign ventilation systems for physical plants of buildings, some of which are 100 years old and get the students back to school real soon?

You must be new around here.

The governor, in order to distract from the mandate (re: suggestion) of wearing a mask while walking the beach by yourself, in November, in Plymouth, has to offer up some kind of carrot and "getting the kids to school" is a great cover.

A lot of nanas are going to get sick around the first week of December and it is not because whilst stepping outside your car on the side of the road on Mount Greylock to take in the view by yourself you were not covered up. It is because there is going to be an orgy of inside human interaction over the end week of this month.

Shut it all down the week before Thanksgiving. Open up in January. Save some lives.

Voting closed 23

7.2% was last week. BPHC has released numbers through Nov. 6 and those show a drop from 7.2% to 6%.

They also show three neighborhoods - East Boston, Mattapan and Dorchester - above 10%, with Roslindale not far behind at 9.4%.

Voting closed 8

Now shut down indoor dining and other non essential indoor activities and ban indoor gatherings between households and maybe we can get the schools reopened to start 2021

Voting closed 28

should absolutely be the top priority of the City. So many children are losing out by not being in school. People talk about the summer slide and that's only 2 months. What do they think will be the results when kids are out of school for at least 9 months? Online school is just not cutting it. (Even my kid who hates school admits that online learning is not good enough.) The Mayor wants to close the achievement gap yet has not made education a priority.

Voting closed 23

I have 2 kids in BPS, both are not enjoying remote learning and falling behind.
We can't sit next to them and monitor their work. I'm sure it's like that for a lot of students.

Voting closed 22

For some children, like my kindergartener and my 4th grader with autism, online learning is not merely unpleasant, but actually harmful. Shut down everything - bars, restaurants, grocery stores, liquor stores, marijuana - EVERYTHING, until schools can reopen. Also, any public gatherings (even "good" ones like protests and election celebrations) should be met with stiff fines (like say $1,000).

Does this sound extreme? Too bad. For the first time in my life, I seriously question whether any of my children will graduate from high school.

Also - read this article. It lays out fairly clearly, that the teachers unions were using school closure as an election issue and that makes me very angry.


Voting closed 13

Read the science. Very few (no, not zero, but a truly negligible number) kids and teachers are getting COVID during in school teaching. Almost all of the transmission in kids is from outside of school. Start up the hybrid teaching, because it's still better to have half the number of kids in an old building at one time.

Voting closed 17