school reopening

Facing Air Purifier Shortage, Lowell Schools Delay in-Person Learning

Most students in grades 1 through 12 will start the year remotely on Thursday, instead of under a hybrid plan as planned

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Schools in Lowell, Massachusetts, have delayed the start of in-person learning for most students due to a shortage in air purifiers, the district said.

Superintendent Joel Boyd said most students in grades 1 through 12 would start the year remotely on Thursday, instead of under a hybrid plan as planned, because the district had not received a shipment of air purifiers due to a shortage in the national supply chain.

The district currently has 128 purifiers, which Boyd said was not enough to serve the entire district.   

"We did get 128 of those purifiers in," said Lowell School Committee member Jackie Doherty. "We have focused those on our most vulnerable students, so we will be having some in-person instruction tomorrow."

Doherty said special education programs for students with the most severe needs were prioritized, as were preschool and kindergarten classrooms scheduled to open Monday.

"We were not ready to bring our families, our children, or our staff into the buildings. Until we could be 100% sure that everything had been done to make them clean and safe," Doherty said.

Those with an in-person learning seat at the Dr. Janice Adie, Laura Lee Therapeutic and LeBlanc Therapeutic schools will be allowed to report to school as planned.

Parents and caregivers are not holding back their frustration.

"I felt like they should have been more prepared," Lowell parent Oneeika Cancel said. "Why offer in-person school and then at the last minute, the day before, tell us that they have to be on remotely?"

"I wanted to get back to school," said Lowell second-grader Lennox Dolan.

"I don't know why they waited until 36 hours before school. It's just not fair to the kids. I mean they've already lost so much learning as it is and they're very upset," added Lynn Dolan, Lennox's grandmother.

Harvard University is now making students who live on campus sign an agreement that they will follow coronavirus guidelines.

Students with in-person learning seats at “substantially separate special education programs” will also be allowed to come to school as planned.

Boyd said the district would provide more details about when hybrid learning would begin for most students.

"We just have to apologize, the job didn't get done, and it's a shame and the kids are the ones that are suffering," Mayor John Leahy said Wednesday. "I feel bad for people that have to scramble at this point and get daycare until we know what we’re doing."

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