BOSTON (CBS) – Twenty-eight Boston public schools re-opened Monday allowing about 1,700 high-needs students to return to the classroom.
The move came just hours after the Boston Teachers Union passed a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Brenda Cassellius over safety concerns.
“We didn’t want to do that. Nobody wants to take that type of vote,” union president Jessica Tang told WBZ-TV.
Eliot Elementary School in the North End was one of the schools that re-opened and while teachers were there to greet students Monday morning, they said more needs to be done.
“All of our educators showed up for our students because that’s never been the issue for us. The issue has always been about safety, equity and transparency,” Tang said.
Cassellius issued a statement of her own Monday afternoon.
“I am deeply appreciative of our entire BPS team and our High In-Person Priority (HIPP) Task Force, consisting of parents, students, BTU members, and school leaders, which advised me and my team on today’s safe reopening of 28 additional schools. I also commend the BPS Facilities team for their around-the-clock efforts since this pandemic began to ensure our buildings are clean and safe,” she said. “I acknowledge the fear that many feel in this moment. That is why we have outlined in extensive communications over the past week the additional health and safety measures BPS has implemented in our school buildings, because it is the right thing to do for our community.”
Mayor Marty Walsh said at a news conference Monday that the no-confidence vote was “shortsighted.”
“One hundred percent of the safety measures that the teacher’s union requested have been implemented in all of our schools that we reopened,” Walsh said. “I give tremendous credit to Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and her team for doing incredible work prioritizing our students who most need our support.”
In a statement, the union said the superintendent refused “to formally extend equal and uniform safety provisions” from the four schools that have been open to the 28 that reopened Monday.
“I truly don’t know. And that is like the million dollar question,” Tang told WBZ. “Because if it’s good enough for the other schools, students and families, why would it not be good enough for all the rest?”
The district shared a photo of what classrooms will look like. Desks are spaced apart for physical distancing and there was an air purifier in the back of the room.
Last week we delivered freestanding air purifiers to all @BostonSchools currently providing in-person learning to students.
— BostonPublicSchools (@BostonSchools) December 14, 2020
Other additional safety measures include providing medical grade personal protective equipment for staff, testing air quality and ventilation in school buildings, and inviting staff to participate in free testing at or near their school.
“Right now there’s one place that they are offering for all of the schools,” Tang said.
The teachers union said right now testing isn’t as accessible as it should be and at-home testing kits are being offered at some schools and not others.
“Teaching both remotely and in-person at the same time is even harder,” the union president said.
The issue that goes beyond safety, according to the Boston Teachers Union, is the expectation to do both simultaneously and the quality of learning students will get as a result
“If students and families are taking risks to go into schools and educators are taking risks to go into schools, then we have to ensure what they are showing up for is worth those risks,” Tang said.