Charlestown parents pushing back on notion of full-remote schooling

It started at the playground, as parents in Charlestown took work breaks and hustled their kids to the playground during a break in remote school to get some fresh air.

Parent Erica Haydock was talking with on parents about the frustrations of remote schooling – and particularly for the most vulnerable students – and suddenly a group was forming. That group has grown and grown and parents are hoping the City can become more creative and innovative in its approach to trying to get kids back in school as soon as possible.

“When they sent the highest needs kids back and announced remote schooling for everyone, a lot of people were offended and disgusted at that fact,” said Haydock. “I didn’t think it was acceptable. I don’t have a high-priority student. The bottom line is remote schooling isn’t easy and it isn’t really working. The emphasis is to get the more high-priority students back as soon as possible, and then come up with a plan to get everyone else back in school too.”

Several Charlestown parents have banded together to become quite a
large group that is pushing back on remote education for high-needs
and general education students. The group has had some protests at
City Hall, and boast about 120 like-minded people in their movement.

The announcement for all-remote school came on Oct. 21 from Boston Public Schools, and Mayor Martin Walsh, and by Oct. 23 the parent group had solidified into a movement.

Haydock said what started with a few people in the park has grown to a group list of 120 parents in a two-week period. They are now looking for other like-minded parents in Charlestown and throughout the city to join their call for innovation and planning.

“The announcement on the 21st was a catalyzing moment for parents,” said JJ Gilmartin. “This group formed immediately after that because many parents had grown frustrated. We have yet to hear a plan from the district for our kids, high-needs or otherwise. There was no reliable plan coming from the district.”

He added that there are so many resources in Boston, and wondered why no one is leveraging the colleges, universities, hospitals and corporations that are on the cutting edge of innovation to help the local public schools.

“My initial frustration is we have a city with some of the brightest minds in the world and some of the best institutions of higher education in the world and no one is coming up with any out of the box ideas to get our kids back in school.”

Added Haydock, “Between the Teacher’s Union, the Mayor’s Office and the District, it doesn’t seem like anyone is focusing on what’s best for kids.

Marcy Carmody, who has three kids in BPS – one that is a high-priority student, said there has to be a real plan right now for the high-needs kids.

She said the in-person supports at their school, the Eliot K-8, have helped her son make great social progress. Now she said, she has seen all of that progress reverse itself.

“Zoom is just not a way to engage this population,” she said. “I’ve seen all the gains made by my son erased in the last eight months.”

Gilmartin he has grown frustrated as he watches his son withdraw from school. As a kindergartner last year, his son would run to school and it was a highlight of the day. Now, one year later, he hates school.

“For my son, he’s learning to hate school,” he said. “He loved school last year. The teachers are working so hard, but he’s trying to get away from his schooling. He used to run to school.”

The purpose, however, is not to find fault, they said, but to bring people together to look for innovative solutions. They have had meetings with BPS leaders and Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teacher’s Union. They hope to bring them all together.

“Boston could be a world leader in getting kids back in school,” said Gilmartin. “Boston had the first public school and we could be first on this too. The mayor, superintendent and teacher’s union are doing a fantastic job. We just want to advocate for them to work together and have a plan.”

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