Some of the most vulnerable students in Boston Public Schools (BPS) will be able to return to local schools on Dec. 14 for in-person services and learning, according to an announcement by Supt. Brenda Cassellius on Tuesday.
However, a plan to return general education students to in-person learning still has no definite time frame other than a conversation starter that is to happen in 2021.
Students returned three weeks ago to a few special-education focused schools around the city, but now 1,700 students with complex disabilities and language needs will return to 28 schools in the district.
For Charlestown students, that will include a return to Harvard Kent Elementary School, Eliot K-8 Innovation School and Charlestown High School.
“We are working towards a plan to return additional students into additional school buildings starting as soon as we can,” she said.
“After the return three weeks ago of students to our special education-focused schools we plan to return the next group of students on Monday, December 14,” she continued. “This will include students with complex disabilities and language needs who were identified as having high priority for in-person learning. We are communicating directly with those families in collaboration with their school leaders to outline next steps.”
She said the return is based on families who selected hybrid learning for their students and on each building’s ability to welcome students and staff back to in-person learning.”
For students that are returning, some of the older buildings without good HVAC systems will have free-standing air purification systems in place. Cassellius said the main measure for ventilation is Air Changes per Hour (ACH). Classrooms should see three or more ACH’s to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to guidance from Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Correspondingly, BPS is also updating filters in their buildings with HVAC systems and adding purifiers as well.
BPS has 400 air units right now in storage, and they are expecting 5,000 to be shipped in through a partnership with the state.
“BPS hired an independent contractor to test the air quality of the buildings where students are currently learning and will continue testing air in all buildings with students and staff in hybrid learning via our Environmental Services Team in collaboration with the Boston Public Health Commission,” she said.
BPS reported nine new cases last week, bringing the total since the return to school buildings in October to 48 cases. There are no schools with five or more cases reported, so the report is in the aggregate. It is also noted that while there are four school buildings with in-person learning in progress now, many teachers and other staff continue to report to their buildings to share the day’s lessons with students who are learning remotely. Any positive cases reported are not necessarily related to the buildings where in-person learning is taking place.