More than 155 Boston school staff, teachers test positive; officials tell parents to brace for cancelations | #specialneeds | #kids

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius is telling parents to brace for school cancelations after more than 150 staff and faculty tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.

“We are trying to protect in-person learning for our students,” Cassellius said Monday, noting parents “should anticipate” cancellations as a “possibility.”

“We are doing everything possible not to have that happen,” the superintendent said. “We know this is where they get their meals, this is where they get their education and care, and often, many of our students with special needs, they get services they need so they don’t regress.”

But even as school and city officials remain committed to in-person learning, Mayor Michelle Wu said the district needs to “be realistic about staffing challenges.”

“Districts across the country right now are facing a surge. As positivity rates go up, it becomes unmanageable at a certain point to keep classrooms staffed,” Wu said, noting “in-person learning is better for our kids.”

The district has in the past combined classrooms to deal with staffing shortages, an option Wu said is no longer safe during the pandemic.

Wu told reporters the school district wouldn’t have a “clear picture” of exactly how badly the current surge in coronavirus cases will impact teaching and learning until Tuesday morning.

“If I have to go out and teach in a classroom, I’m going to do that,” Cassellius said. “But our goal is to keep classes going and keep students in-person.”

A total of 155 teachers and administrative staff out of Boston Public Schools workforce of more than 9,700 reported positive COVID-19 tests across Saturday and Sunday, Wu said. It’s an “exponentially larger” number than the rate of absence before the pandemic.

“The most important thing we can do right now is to keep monitoring and providing testing for our teachers and substitute teachers so we can track how things are going and provide those supports in real time in schools,” Wu said.

The state provided school districts across the state with more than 227,000 rapid COVID tests, including 10,000 that went to Boston schools. Wu said it was enough to provide each teacher with one test.

“That is not sufficient,” the mayor said. “That will get us through Tuesday morning — barely — but in order to continue keeping our school community safe, we need to have regular testing of our teachers.”

Wu called on the state to include teachers in the state-run pool testing program available to public school students.

Many schools around Massachusetts canceled classes on Monday to give teachers time to test after distribution of the state-provided kits was delayed by one day.

Monday was a pre-scheduled planning day ahead of students’ return on Tuesday, according to the district calendar.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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