In less than a week, more than 700 people coming from every Boston neighborhood have signed a Change.org petition encouraging Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to reject any waiver from Boston Public Schools (BPS) and to demand that the district open five full days a week for grades K-5 in April.
The petition, published by parent advocacy group Voices for BPS Families, which was started in Charlestown, on March 11, calls on Commissioner Reilly to deny any request filed by BPS regarding opening up K-5 grades to full-time in person learning starting April 5, as required by DESE. The petition also calls for maintaining the fully-remote learning model currently in place for those families who desire fully remote learning.
The petition demands that Commissioner Riley accept “no excuses” from BPS, since the research, and the Massachusetts medical community, overwhelmingly support a return to full-time in-person learning for those families who choose it, said the group.
Additionally, Voices said the disturbing truth is that remote learning is perpetuating inequities and leaving many of the most vulnerable children behind. Granting a waiver to BPS would constitute another significant failure of care to Boston’s children, they said.
Voices members said a majority of BPS families are choosing in person learning, and the school buildings are ready, the president of the Boston Teacher’s Union has stated that the district has taken every precaution the union requested, and teachers are now prioritized for vaccines.
The time has come for the safe return to full-time in person learning, said the parents.
“We are very encouraged that Commissioner Riley recognizes it is safe to return to full-time in-person learning and has required schools across the state to do so starting April 5. Our concern regards BPS, the largest school district in the state, and their planned waiver application. BPS has spent the last year preparing for the return to school and the science is clear that this can be done safely now, with all the excellent mitigation factors that BPS has put in place. This is not time for excuses from BPS about why it can’t be done. It is time to act in the children’s best interest and to return to full-time in person learning as DESE requires,” said Jody Fink, parent to one young learner.
“Despite the best intentions on the part of most schools and teachers, virtual learning is simply not working for all students in Boston. Our work will continue until every child is receiving the in-person instruction and services to which they are entitled. Kids need to be in the classroom,” said Erica Haydock, co-founder of Voices for BPS Families and a parent of an elementary school student in Charlestown.
Dozens of parents who signed the petition left comments indicating their reasons for signing:
•“There is no evidence of transmission in a school environment that adheres to CDC protocols. Additionally, it’s time to start giving equal consideration to mental health – this is a real and serious problem!,” wrote Kristen Carucci.
•“BPS has had a year to get organized to get kids back in school. No more excuses,” wrote Marcie Carmody.
•“I am tired of the unions putting their political agenda ahead of children and families. The union keeps moving the goalposts, but public health experts say children can return safely to full-time, in-person learning. Listen to the science and ignore the excuses,” wrote Laureen Wood.
•“Other districts have been in person since September 2020, so have many private and parochial schools within Boston, who don’t have fancy equipment. Boston kids deserve better than to be put on the back burner. Educators have been bumped up for the vaccine. Enough with these excuses- stop failing our kids,” wrote Gerli Butler.
Voices for BPS Families, a group of 400 parents of BPS children, organized to put pressure on the City of Boston and BPS leadership to establish a plan to make in-person learning available as soon as possible for students who choose to return to school—while maintaining a remote learning option for families who choose it.