BOSTON (CBS) — The pencils are sharpened, the backpacks are packed, and that can only mean one thing — it is the first day of school in Boston.
At Orchard Gardens School in Roxbury, students were welcomed with new pencils and a pump of hand sanitizer.
“I’m just really excited to have school again,” one student said. “Remote, it was pretty hard to do on computers because I don’t really know about computers.”
Precautions are in place to keep students and staff safe as they return in person after a year of hybrid learning. Parents are happy that kids are going back to school, but some have nerves about the unknown.
“She is really good about keeping her mask on, but I don’t know about the other students, if they’re going to be doing the same thing,” said one parent. “That’s what worries me.”
Jessica Tang, the president of the Boston Teacher’s Association, says teachers are feeling confident with all the protocols, and she’s asking parents to continue doing their part.
“I can not emphasize the importance of having as many students as possible, not just get vaccinated when they’re eligible, but in the meantime, participating in the pool surveillance testing,” said Tang.
Another concern the district is dealing with is a shortage of bus drivers. The Boston school bus drivers’ union even called for the first day of school to be postponed, but they did reach a last-minute deal with the school department so that school could start Thursday.
But, officials warn parents that there could be delays.
“We know Boston is a city of traffic, that there is a bus driver shortage across our country. But we have staff in place, additional staff in place at the bus yards, so we’re doing everything that we can,” said Acting Mayor Kim Janey.
The district says they expected bus drivers to report to work Thursday morning, and they even offered extra pay for drivers who showed up 15 minutes early.
Superintendent of Boston Public Schools Brenda Cassellius says there is a national bus driver shortage, and they’re working hard in Boston to remedy the issue.
“We have had a staffing shortage. Fortunately, we’ve been able to hire 35 drivers after the bid. And so, that will really help us with some of our shortages. But we do have routes that we still need to cover,” said Cassellius. “We also have standby drivers who are ready to take on routes that where we have absences or drivers aren’t showing up. And so, we’ll be able to cover routes with that. So we anticipate that there could be some delays.”
Cassellius tweeted photos on Thursday morning at the bus yard, thanking bus drivers and monitors for welcoming students back to school.
At the bus yard at O’dark hour to thank our bus drivers and monitors for welcoming our students back to school. Please watch out for our kids in the rain and drive carefully. #BPSBack2School2021 @BostonSchools pic.twitter.com/IccG6w0k4L
— Brenda Cassellius (@BCassellius) September 9, 2021
“So far, it’s been a smooth morning,” Cassellius said earlier on Thursday. “But we are going to continue to watch it and then problem solve if things pop up.”
If there are any service disruptions, parents received a call from the transportation department.
The last-minute deal with the bus drivers union is a temporary one until November 15. Negotiations will continue for a long-term plan.