Boston Public Schools Students Getting No Formal Instruction During Coronavirus Emergency; Teachers Still Getting Paid

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Public school classes have not taken place in Boston since Monday, March 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic. So far, neither have any formal online classes for the district’s more than 54,000 students.

Even so, teachers are still being paid as usual.

On the three-week anniversary of the closure of the schools, a spokesman for the school system said the Boston Teachers Union and the Boston Public Schools have yet to finalize an online learning plan.

“Boston Public Schools is actively working with the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) to develop comprehensive expectations during this unprecedented closure,” said Jessica Ridlen, director of communications for the Boston Public Schools, in an email message to New Boston Post on Monday, April 6. “Our goal is to provide the necessary resources and support to students to ensure they continue learning at home while school is closed, and to welcome students back to the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Governor Charlie Baker has closed all public and private schools in Massachusetts until at least Monday, May 4 – 49 days after the city’s public schools first closed.

When he made the announcement, Baker said the extension of the school closures would allow time to set up distance learning. “This is not an extended school vacation,” Baker said during a press conference March 25.

The state’s largest city’s school system is implementing its approach to distance learning by degrees, the spokesman said.

“We have developed a phased approach of providing equitable remote learning across the district, which started with distributing two weeks worth of printed learning materials while we continue our work to ensure all students have a digital learning device and Internet access so they can connect to high-quality learning materials online,” Ridlen said.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Boston public school district had 4,233 full-time teachers as of the 2018-2019 school year — the most recent figures available.

On the final day of school before the coronavirus pandemic shut down Boston public schools, students received paper-based instructional packets with two to three weeks of material. Students received varying packets depending on their grade levels and coursework.

Initially, the coronavirus pandemic was set to keep students out of Boston Public Schools until April 27. However, the governor announced on March 25 that Massachusetts schools would be closed until at least May 4. That announcement took place 12 days ago.

The talks between the Boston Teachers Union and Boston Public Schools on how to implement distance learning have been going on since at least Thursday, March 19, according to a Boston Globe report from March 20.

At the time, the superintendent of schools Brenda Cassellius, and the president of the Boston Teachers Union, Jessica Tang, released a joint statement about distance learning.

“We know that remote learning is a new experience for many educators, students, and families,” Tang and Cassellius wrote in the joint letter, quoted by the Boston Globe. “Even so,​ we are seeing the incredible creativity, resourcefulness, commitment, and professionalism from educators across the city as you all have been going above and beyond to get ready to support our students going forward.​”

On Monday, April 6 – 17 days after the Boston Globe story appeared — Ridlen would not say if the district expects to have its formal distance learning program set up within the next week.

The district ordered about 20,000 Chromebook laptops in March to ensure their students would have access to them for distance learning.

Ridlen also noted that Boston Public Schools and Boston Neighborhood Network, a public access television station in the city, had teamed up to provide educational programming during select time slots on Monday through Friday (10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.).

On Monday, according to the channel’s Facebook page, the programming included lessons on how percentages work, a 35-minute show called BPS Pre-K & Kindergarten at Home, a program called Great Jobs looking at various occupations (including zoo veterinarian, aquarium ecologist, and forensic reconstruction artist).

The press office for the Boston Teachers ’Union and the press office for Boston Mayor Marty Walsh did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday, April 5 or Monday, April 6.