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Boston Delays School Reopening Plan After Virus Cases Surge

Mayor Marty Walsh and  Superintendent Brenda Cassellius pose for a photograph together at the Salvation Army and TD Garden's Back to School Celebration in Dorchester on Aug. 18, 2020. ( Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Mayor Marty Walsh and Superintendent Brenda Cassellius pose for a photograph together at the Salvation Army and TD Garden's Back to School Celebration in Dorchester on Aug. 18, 2020. ( Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Boston is delaying plans to reopen the city’s schools after the city’s coronavirus positivity rate climbed higher than 4%, Mayor Marty Walsh announced Wednesday.

Remote learning began on Sept. 21 and families were allowed to opt in for hybrid learning scheduled to start this month.

Now, preschoolers and kindergartners who were scheduled to report to school the week of Oct. 15 instead will start Oct. 22, Walsh said. Grades 4 through 8 are now scheduled to transition to a hybrid model the week of Nov. 5, and grades 9 through 12 the week of Nov. 16, he said.

The Boston Teachers Union responded in a statement, with President Jessica Tang saying BTU is "disappointed that recommendations we had previously put forward to establish a contingency plan for this scenario had not previously been adopted by BPS."

"Absent making immediate adjustments to reduce the number of non-essential staff entering school buildings, we are deeply concerned at this hour that the status quo and current approach may needlessly put thousands of staff and students in harm’s way, as we have seen multiple confirmed positive cases in the last four days," Tang said.

Boston City Councilor and Mayoral candidate Michelle Wu expressed similar concerns, calling the reopening reversal a "failure of leadership."

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Wu said the about-face — while safer than bringing more students back into classrooms — is the result of a lack of contingency planning on the part of BPS, and said the city had failed to listen to the input of teachers, students and families in imagining pandemic schooling.

"It is unacceptable that BPS has been overseeing remote learning since March and we still lack clarity and predictability about the larger plan," Wu said.

Massachusetts is among the hardest-hit states, with at least 9,323 COVID-19 deaths and more than 133,300 confirmed cases.

With additional reporting from the WBUR Newsroom

This article was originally published on October 07, 2020.

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