Walsh Remains Uncomfortable With Reopening Boston Schools

BOSTON (State House News Service) — State officials want almost all districts that fall outside of the highest COVID-19 risk designation to bring students back for fully in-person learning, but Boston is not yet ready to take that step, Mayor Martin Walsh said Thursday.

The bulk of students in Boston Public Schools have been all remote throughout this academic year, and dating back to last March. School district officials brought some of their highest needs students back briefly, before going remote again.

Walsh said a small number of the district's highest-needs students will begin returning to classrooms soon, but he wants to wait to bring everyone back until "the numbers get safe."

"Right now, in Boston, I just don't feel safe and comfortable opening the schools," Walsh said Thursday, the same day that Gov. Charlie Baker and his top education deputies visited a Carlisle elementary school hosting in-person learning. "I'm not sure what Carlisle's rate is. They might be a little bit less than ours. There are parts of the state that aren't experiencing what we're experiencing here."

The Baker administration has been ramping up pressure on communities to bring as many students back into classrooms as possible, warning about the mental, social and emotional toll that learning from home can take on children and teenagers, and suggesting that schools have not proven to be the kinds of places where the virus is spreading.

Last week, the administration changed how it measures the risk levels in communities -- in the process shifting Boston from the red, highest-risk category to a yellow, moderate-risk level -- and issued new guidance urging all communities outside the red to bring students back for full in-person learning.

Boston does not appear likely to embrace that guidance in the immediate future, potentially creating tensions with the Baker administration. Walsh said he spoke with Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeff Riley to express the complexities of resuming on-site education in the state's largest city.

"Right now, it wouldn't be the right time for us to do in-person in Boston," Walsh said. "I'd love to get our kids back in school. That's our goal, that's our priority. I want them in as soon as possible, but right now, today, it's not the right move for Boston."

A DESE spokesperson declined to comment Thursday.

By Chris Lisinski, State House News Service

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(Photo: Getty Images)

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