More than 150 Boston teachers have already called out sick for the return to school from winter break Tuesday, Superintendent Brenda Cassellius said Monday.
Cassellius and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu gave an update Monday morning on the district's plans to return to school on Tuesday after winter break. The superintendent did not give the latest number of teachers who will be out Tuesday, but said it is a "higher number than what we have typically seen over the year."
On Saturday, 40 teachers called out sick and another 115 teachers called out Sunday, Cassellius said. Cassellius expected to have an updated number of teacher call outs from school leaders by Monday afternoon. It was unclear how many students would be out sick Tuesday.
The district is also anticipating transportation issues. Parents will be notified if there is no bus coverage, Cassellius said. The city has backup drivers in case there are absences, but the district has had a number of undue absences.
"I do anticipate that we will see transportation delays and shortages during this week," Cassellius said. "This is historically a challenging time of year as bus drivers return from their vacations and so it is it is historically a difficult week for us with bus transportation like this."
Go. Charlie Baker weighed in on that, saying the National Guard has been offered up to help drive buses in districts throughout the state.
"They did it in many communities. Boston by the way, turned down the opportunity to participate with the National Guard on that program," Baker said.
Wu pushed back on that, saying national guard drivers are only licensed to drive seven-passenger vans - not large school buses.
"So it was simply not an offer that we could benefit from at all. And really take up on," Wu said.
Wu and Cassellius spoke about plans to return to the classroom in Dorchester Monday morning after working with school officials to prepare packets with at-home COVID-19 testing kits and KN-95 masks to give out to teachers and staff.
"The plan right now is to assess each school case by case," Cassellius said. "If I have to go out and teach in the classroom, I'm going to do that. But our goal is to keep classes going and keeps students in-person."
The packets were comprised of 10,000 at-home COVID-19 testing kits. There were enough KN-95 masks to provide 30 per teacher, Cassellius said.
"Folks have been out here unpacking and sorting and bagging so these will all get to our schools by -- they're already on the road right now," Wu said Monday morning.
Wu added that while she believes in-person learning is a better option for students, it could at some point become unmanageable to keep classrooms staffed. If that happens, the district may have to return to remote.
But the governor said Monday that remote learning is not an option. Some say he should reconsider.
"It just might not be possible to have enough kids and enough staff in school to have in-person learning," Dr. Lisa Dobberteen, medical director at the Cambridge Public Health Department, said.
From Worcester to Cambridge and throughout Massachusetts this weekend, rapid COVID-19 tests were handed out to every public school district in the state ahead of the return to classrooms Monday from a long holiday break.
Some school districts across the state decided to open late, or later in the week, due to a delivery delay of masks and testing kits amid COVID concerns.
Cambridge is among several cities that have delayed the start of school until Wednesday. The district has substitute teachers on standby in case there are positive cases among the teaching staff, Superintendent Dr. Victoria Greer said.
"A lot of parents trust us for their kids and I think we have to do our own part to make sure that we keep that trust for those parents," said Brij Mjalya, an occupational therapist at Cambridge Public Schools.
More than 227,000 at-home rapid COVID-19 tests were handed out this weekend. After a two-day delay -- due to supply chain issues -- the tests arrived in the Bay State on New Year's Eve and were distributed Saturday and Sunday so that teachers could test themselves before returning to the classroom Monday, following the extended holiday break.
Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has said this was a crucial step in getting students back to school safely starting on Monday.