Students were back in class at the Curley K-8 School in Jamaica Plain Monday, 12 days after the district closed closed it's doors following a COVID-19 outbreak.
"Things went smoothly," said Erik Berg, the vice president of the Boston Teachers Union. "Attendance was good and it seems like things have gone well."
The Curley was closed on Nov. 10, after 46 COVID-19 cases were reported there. Officials with Boston Public Schools said the district used the quarantine period to thoroughly sanitize the campus.
They've also enacted several new communication protocols as a result of the outbreak. Families will now be notified about a positive case as soon as it's identified. Before, officials waited until after contact tracing was completed. The district will also inform families when contact tracing begins and ends.
Curley students logged into class remotely during the seven school days when building was closed. The district applied for a waiver that would allow them to count those days toward the state's requirement that schools provide at least 180 learning days each year, but the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education only partially approved that request. State Education Commissioner Jeff Riley told district leaders that the Curley K-8 school would have to add three days of in-person learning on to the end of the school year to make up for the closure.
"It is possible that the spread of COVID-19 was truly so rapid that earlier mitigations would not have had an effect," wrote Riley in an official response to BPS's waiver request. "However, we are left to wonder if the whole school closure at the Curley could have been avoided if progressive interventions recommended by DESE were implemented last week, such as quarantining individual classrooms or grade levels."
In response, a BPS spokesperson said the district is reviewing the commissioner's decision adding, “We will make a decision in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, always with the top priority of keeping our students, staff, families and Boston community healthy and safe."
Riley's response drew harsher criticism from the community. One Curley parent started a Change.org petition demanding the state recognize all remote learning days at the school.
"You may disagree with how BPS has handled this latest situation, but many factors are out of our district’s control," wrote petition creator Jocelyn Stanton.
Leaders with the Boston Teachers Union added that Riley's decision was akin to gambling with student health and safety.
"The idea that the state is not going to give students credit for learning days that are remote under these circumstances strikes most parents and educators as bizarre," said Berg in a statement. "Instead, the state should be focusing on improving their own implementation of pool testing and ‘test and stay’ programs in order to keep students safe and to ensure the continuity of in-person learning."