Parents Brace For Potential K-12 School Closures

The Bruce Bolling Municipal Building, BPS's Nubian Square headquarters. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Bruce Bolling Municipal Building, BPS's Nubian Square headquarters. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Several schools are temporarily closing as a way to slow the spread of coronavirus. As school leaders consider how to keep education running and protect the health of their communities, many parents are looking for clear communication and debating whether schools should stay open.

Neathery Brenzel, who has three kids at Boston Public Schools, said she wishes she was hearing from the district more often.

"My son is at Boston Latin School and I think I’ve only received maybe one email that was very general that felt like a cut and paste from the influenza [notices]," she said.

According to the BPS website, the district has sent letters and robocalls to parents. Since WBUR spoke with Brenzel, Boston Public Schools decided to close all three campuses of the Eliot School in the North End, after someone who came to the school tested positive for coronavirus. In a Wednesday night press conference, Mayor Marty Walsh said he was closely monitoring the situation with Boston health officials, but said, "I don't think we're at that point here yet" to close the entire district temporarily.

Brenzel said she has been hearing a lot more from her fourth child’s school, Academy of the Pacific Rim, which is a charter public school in Hyde Park.

"They have sent emails periodically, text messages with links to the email information," she said. "They have told us that we should probably be prepared or expect some closing this spring."

Brenzel would prefer if the schools closed, but she says she understands that’s a tough decision for districts because school closings can be a financial and logistical burden for a lot of families.

But other parents have stronger feelings, like Tobi, a parent from Waltham.

"It’s sort of a no brainer that they should be closing the schools already. I think that’s just obvious," Tobi said.

We’re only using Tobi’s middle name because he’s opted to keep his son home right now, and doesn’t want him to face repercussions from the district. Tobi is caring for an elderly parent and his son has asthma, which is why he thinks sending his son to school right now is too risky.

"We’re closing universities, we’re closing St. Patrick’s Day, but K-12 — no problem," Tobi said incredulously. "The people who cannot stop themselves from shaking hands, the people who don’t wash hands, the people who sneeze, cough and blow their noses in each other’s faces. Those are the ones we’ll let mingle — until what?"

In a recent letter to parents, officials with Waltham Public Schools said that if a child has medical concerns parents should consult with a physician about whether they should attend school right now.

But not everyone is leaning so hard toward long school closures.

"I hope it doesn’t happen so I can continue doing what I need to do professionally," said Nicte Mejia, a parent to two elementary school children in Belmont. She's also a physician who works in the public health field. "But if it does happen, I would be in complete understanding and support."

Mejia said she's been happy with the steps that Belmont has taken so far like cancelling field trips and large events, which is what state public health officials recommend.

This article was originally published on March 12, 2020.

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Carrie Jung Senior Reporter, Education
Carrie is a senior education reporter.



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