Boston schools pause reopening plan after rise in coronavirus cases

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said Wednesday that the city’s 54,000-student school district will pause its reopening of schools for in-person lessons.

The decision was based on the city registering a coronavirus positivity rate — the percentage of tests that are positive — of greater than 4 percent.

“We believe that it’s prudent at this time to pause the school reopening plan, and just as I talk about this, these are difficult decisions,” Walsh said.

“I understand the importance of having school for our young people,” Walsh said at a press conference. “There’s a young man here you don’t see at home, and he’s holding a sign, ‘We need school.'”

But the decision based on the 4 percent threshold, which he said was more conservative than the state’s, “that’s consistent with our overall cautious approach.”

The background: Boston reopened schools for some in-person lessons on Oct. 1. More students were slated to return to a mix of in-person and at-home lessons on Oct. 15. Walsh said that start date will be pushed to Oct. 22, but the city will continue monitoring the spread of the virus for possible changes.

In-person classes will continue for some of the city’s most fragile students, including those with more severe disabilities, who are learning English, may be homeless or in state custody, Walsh said.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has urged schools that decided to host remote classes to provide in-person lessons to “lower-risk” communities. Boston recently entered the state’s “high-risk” category for cases. Walsh has taken a more cautious approach than Baker throughout the pandemic, most recently with Boston choosing not to enter the newest phase of reopening that started this week.

The big picture: Boston is not the only place that has had to dial back on reopening plans. New York City delayed its planned reopening and has shuttered some schools after a spike in coronavirus cases in some neighborhoods. Schools will be forced into remote learning only in both “red” and “orange” zones, and in-person learning will be allowed in yellow zones, but there will be mandatory weekly testing for students and staff.

Stephanie Murray and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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