BOSTON (CBS) — Boston Public Schools will begin the school year remotely on Sept. 21, before moving to a hybrid model on October 1. “Starting school is not an easy decision. It’s a very complex decision,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said while announcing the plan Friday.

The first students to return to the classroom will be the students with the highest need.

Kindergarten students will between Oct. 15 and 19 during Phase 3, along with grades 1-3 on Oct. 22 and 26.

Grades 4-8 will return at the beginning of Nov. and high schoolers will go back starting on Nov. 16 and 19.

(Boston Public Schools)

“We have families who want kids to go back to school. We have families that feel that kids shouldn’t go back in school; they’re not comfortable in sending their kids to school yet,” Walsh said. “Our priority has always been and will continue to always be the health and safety of our residents, which include our students, our staff, our teachers.”

Walsh said the model is flexible and the city will continue to monitor the coronavirus pandemic. School buildings will need to meet state public health guidelines. Parents have the option to keep students home for fully remote learning.

“We feel this is the best approach to educate our children. It creates a staggered approach for students to return to the classroom in a safe and careful way. It’s the best way to tackle the opportunity and achievement gaps in our city,” the mayor said.

“Every day outside the classroom is a lost opportunity for many students. Schools mean more than learning. They mean essential services, caring, and mentoring, and social developments.”

Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang says this is a positive and safe step forward. ” Seventy-five percent felt like we needed to start remote because we just weren’t ready yet and prepared to bring in our students and didn’t feel safe for our students or educators yet.”

According to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, “We’re moving forward because we know that the best place for a child is in the classroom with their teacher. Their child development is precious.”

“I understand deeply that this is a scary time. We’re all a little bit anxious, and there are no perfect answers right now,” she added. “We learned a lot from our remote learning in the spring…This will be school, not emergency remote learning – with a regular school day, with appropriate services for English language learners, appropriate services for students with disabilities.”

Boston Latin School eighth-grader Zoe Awa said she’s nervous about remote learning. “I’m a bit nervous with remote learning it’s a bit different than in-class learning because there are no students and teachers to really help you if you don’t understand.

Awa said she will participate in the hybrid model when it becomes available. “I plan to do hybrid because I would like to go to school. I would like to see my classmates and teachers, and I’m kinda bored being stuck in the house.”

Boston’s positive test rate must be below 4% in order for the hybrid model to take place. The rate is currently 2.8%.

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