By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Brenda Cassellius has been in charge of the education and safety of 52,000 students during the pandemic.

In an exclusive interview with WBZ-TV, she explains how grateful she has been for the families in the Boston schools during a year that’s been one for the history books.

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Paula Ebben: “Has anything in your career prepared you for a year like this?”

Dr. Cassellius: “Well, this has been a tough year on everyone and especially families. I want to thank our families and teachers and staff for the incredible work they have done, but we are learning on the go here and could never have imagined a pandemic…never.”

Paula Ebben: “What do you think you will take emotionally from this experience?”

Dr. Cassellius: “We are going to look back and look at how resilient we really are…and how strong we are as a City. We pulled together for our children and their families and it was just amazing to see the coming together and what I take away is that anything is possible if we really work together around it.”

Paula Ebben: “You’re leading the largest public school system in New England with over 52,000 students….how big of a problem is learning loss going to be?”

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Dr. Cassellius: “I do think it’s going to be a problem, but it’s really in a couple of grades. Early childhood grades are impacted the most because some parents just chose to take a year off and keep their children home, so we know our youngest learners had a much harder time accessing remote. And then our older learners – you talk to the high school students, and they said they just had a harder time getting out of bed, and it was really tough for them for their mental health… so I think the upper ends and the lower ends we will see big problems, and even in the middle some students struggled. Students with disabilities where we couldn’t give them their services and students who have languages other than English as their first language…we’re really going to try to give them a boost this summer.”

Even though the pandemic has contributed to learning loss for some students, Dr. Cassellius is not necessarily in favor of parents holding their children back to repeat the year.

Dr. Cassellius: “They have that right – to have their child repeat the year, and so I’d say: talk to your teacher and review the research on what that means long term…there’s some mix in the early grades that it could benefit so there are some parents that hold their children back – like for Kindergarten – and wait a year because of maturity and other reasons and some of the research shows that it matters, but as children get older – into the middle and High School grades, even the upper intermediate grades – it could be detrimental to them finishing high school.”

Paula Ebben: “What about snow days??”

Dr. Cassellius: “I think there will be at least one snow day – the first snow day because that’s kind of fun, but that’s something…I make the decision with the new Mayor because it involves a lot of other things with technology, infrastructure, roads and so…that remains to be seen.”

Dr. Cassellius adds the biggest challenge in the return to school in September is if social distancing rules remain in effect – there may not be enough space in classrooms for everyone. She added one of the positives of the pandemic was how much more engaged parents became with their child’s education.

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You can see all of Paula’s interview with Dr. Cassellius in the video above.

Paula Ebben