Mayor Wu: ‘Peak may be past us soon;’ Boston not anticipating remote learning

Some Boston school students are working to organize a walkout Friday over COVID safety concerns in the city’s schools

BOSTON — Boston Mayor Michelle Wu says the City of Boston may be turning a corner when it comes to the current peak of confirmed COVID cases affecting Boston Public Schools.

“So far we do not anticipate the need to have a district-wide remote situation because of staffing,” said Wu during a news briefing on Thursday. “We do have plans in place, school-by-school. We have the technology ready to go. Each school has their reserve of Chromebooks.”

“I am thankful,” said Wu, who is in constant contact with the city’s Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, tracking data about the spread of COVID-19 in Boston.

“The wastewater data does show that it looks like we may be approaching, or that the peak may be past us soon,” said Wu.

“We don’t know what that will mean on (school) staffing yet. But for now, we keep emphasizing that closing our schools and moving to remote is a last resort, but it is one that we are prepared for,” said Wu.

Wu also stressed that the city and its schools are not out of woods. “We are still seeing very high community positivity,” she said.

Wu said that as of a few days ago there were about 1,200 school staff absences, from teachers to food service workers, and some schools are seeing absences approaching 40%.

City officials are checking in with individual schools three times a day to assess staffing needs, said Wu.

Some Boston school students are working to organize a walkout Friday over COVID safety concerns in the city’s schools.

Also, an online petition organized by a Boston Latin School senior calling for remote learning in Boston has gathered more than 7,000 signatures.

In a presentation to the Boston School Committee Wednesday night, the Superintendent of Boston Schools Brenda Cassellius indicated schools are still struggling with staffing challenges and absences.

Overall student attendance as of Monday, January 10 was 73% and some 640 teachers and 343 paraprofessionals were out.

Fewer school buses were also running. On Monday, 37 buses had no driver in the morning and 26 had no driver in the afternoon.

However, Cassellius’ did indicate “absenteeism rates are high in some schools but trending in the right direction” using slides that showed absentee rates and trends.

Cassellius’ presentation also showed that “BPS, in collaboration with the City and DESE is in the process of acquiring more rapid tests to be able to independently accommodate the higher demand for rapid tests as well as account for upcoming breaks in the remainder of the school year (February and April).”

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