In-person learning is expected to resume for the next wave of Boston Public Schools students on Feb. 1, the district and its teachers union said Monday.
They'll be followed by the widespread return of students in phases starting with the youngest students returning March 1 and ending with high schoolers in class in the beginning of April.
The new timeline is still tentative -- each phase could be pushed back a week or two if required by the health situation -- but it's the first definitive news for families looking for an update from Boston Public Schools amid the coronavirus pandemic, which required most students to learn remotely in the fall, as COVID-19 cases increased in the city.
Within those phases, groups A and B are slated to return the Monday and Thursday of each week. Students who have opted out of in-person learning will still be allowed to continue learning remotely.
The announcement included the list of high-needs students returning the week of Feb. 1:
- High needs/Level 4 students with disabilities
- English Learners who are EL levels 1 and 2
- Students who are in the care of of the Department of Children and Families
- Students who are experiencing homelessness
- Students with limited or interrupted formal education
- Students identified by their school’s Student Support Team (SST) as requiring additional in-person schooling
The announcement is the result of a new agreement between the school district and the Boston Teachers Union on stipulations for keeping schools safe amid the pandemic, as well as staffed, the organizations said. The agreement covers how many students and staff members can be in buildings at once, air purifying and ventilating systems, free COVID-19 testing for teachers and more.
"I am grateful that BPS and BTU have reached a significant agreement that outlines the return to in-person learning for additional students in a safe and sustainable manner. I look forward to welcoming more students and teachers back into school buildings, while also remaining committed to the continued success of remote learning for families that prefer that option,” said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for labor secretary, in a statement.
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Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said in a statement: "The best learning environment for our students is in their classrooms, with their peers, under the care of our educators and staff. This agreement charts the course for the rest of the school year and establishes a safe return to in-person learning for additional students and staff."
Sharing the news with members in an email Monday, union leadership called the agreement "a tremendous step forward."
"I think it's a step forward and we continue to collaborate and work with the district and BPHC and the city to ensure again the safest possible return to in person learning for as many students as possible," said Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang.
The next big hurdle, the union says is vaccines.
"How can we get vaccinations into our schools as quickly as possible for our educators and students and school nurse?" she asked.
The union and school district had clashed in the fall over whether teachers should be required to come back to classrooms if they preferred to work remotely. They later agreed on adding more safety measures for open schools.
Thirty-two Boston public schools are already open for some high-needs students' in-person learning.