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April School-Reopening Deadlines Raise Concerns for MA Teachers, Parents

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Students and teachers in public elementary schools in the Commonwealth are set to go back to the classroom, full-time and in-person, on April 5, and to middle schools on April 28. (Wikimedia Commons)
Students and teachers in public elementary schools in the Commonwealth are set to go back to the classroom, full-time and in-person, on April 5, and to middle schools on April 28. (Wikimedia Commons)
 By Lily Bohlke - Producer, Contact
March 17, 2021

BOSTON - As the state pushes for middle schools to go full-time for in-person learning by the end of April, some students, parents and school committee members are pushing back.

Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley announced the deadline earlier this month, raising concerns that timeline may not work for every district. Some, including in Boston, have made gradual reopening plans with hybrid models.

Suleika Soto is a parent organizer with the Boston Education Justice Alliance and has two kids in Boston public schools. She said she doesn't think there's enough time for the city to meet the new deadline, especially as marginalized communities still being hit harder by the virus.

"While I believe Riley has good intentions," she said, "he has not taken parents and students into consideration, especially low-income Black and Brown families, by mandating that districts are fully back in-person."

Soto noted that her seventh-grader's school doesn't have a school bus, so she'll have to use public transportation, which in Boston has reduced its service recently. She said she thinks more advance planning is needed before the district can resume normal operations.

Yahaira Lopez, founder of Autism Sprinter and a parent of two, said support for parent engagement offices, school guidance counselors and special-education service providers are keys to providing stability for students as schools reopen - as well as making major improvements to school buildings.

"Poor ventilation has been an issue in our public schools for a very, very long time," she said. "I'm a former Boston Public School student, and the buildings still look the same."

Some school districts have said they're ready to get kids back into classrooms and are prepared to meet the deadline. But for those districts with more to do, groups such as the Massachusetts Education Justice Alliance are urging the state to provide adequate time to ensure that all schools are reopened safely.

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