Education secretary joins Boston leaders Tuesday to discuss reopening strategies

BOSTON — “We’re coming out of a year of hurt, pain and trauma, and we’re going to recover together,” said U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday.

Help is here, that was Secretary Cardona’s message to students in Boston. He joined Boston Mayor Kim Janey, Superintendent Brenda Casselius and school leadership at the John Tynan School for a tour and roundtable discussion on reopening strategies, including bringing elementary school students back for full-time.

The district’s start date for K-8 students is April 26.

“The challenge was getting them back here, how do we get more than one kid in the classroom? Because that doesn’t feel right,” said assistant principal Chris Burdman.

“Getting the children back into the building was the biggest challenge because we had to convince families it was safe; families that don’t trust the system already,” Principal Leslie Gant added.

Tynan School leadership told Cardona that, with community outreach,189 of their 239 families have now decided to come back in the building. Cardona praised their work and Boston’s plan to invest federal COVID-19 relief for schools on early education literacy programs and so-called full-service community schools connected to programs like the YMCA.

>>>MORE: 90% of MA school districts returning elementary students to in-person learning by April 5, DESE says

“By having the secretary here and seeing his commitment to education overall is really encouraging and having that money to make sure we are safely reopening,” Mayor Janey said.

Cardona’s visit comes as statewide pool testing at schools showed COVID-19 positivity rates of 0.76%, according to the governor’s office. Superintendent Cassellius said elementary school kids are doing well while high school students have been suffering the most. She also urged Secretary Cardona to make more vaccines available to teens ages 16 and up.

“Being isolated and getting them back to normal is hard. One thing we can do is really push for those vaccines,” Cassellius said.

“We will make sure we’re creating those opportunities for our young people at those decision-making tables to determine for themselves what they need,” Mayor Janey said.

No date has been set for high school reopening.

Cardona’s visit also comes as President Joe Biden works to fulfill his promise to open the majority of elementary and middle schools for full-time in-person learning within his first 100 days in office.

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