Governor Charlie Baker would not explicitly say Thursday that he disagreed with Boston school officials' decision to return to all-remote learning, but he emphasized that districts across the state are not seeing coronavirus spread within school buildings.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do over the course of this pandemic is to learn from the real-life experience and the research of others, and the real-life experience and the research with respect to schools is overwhelming at this point that schools are not spreaders, that kids in schools are not spreaders of COVID,” Baker said.
Baker and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley have been encouraging school districts to bring back as many students as possible this academic year, emphasizing that in-person learning for students is invaluable. During a meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday, Riley said that fears about coronavirus super-spreading in schools have been “somewhat unfounded.”
Asked directly Thursday if Boston should have pulled the plug on in-person learning, Baker used a sports metaphor to say he wouldn’t explicitly speak out against the city’s plans.
“Look, our goal is to try to be supportive and helpful to our colleagues in municipal government, and I’m not going to Monday-morning quarterback this stuff,” he said.
Boston leaders announced Wednesday the school district would be returning to all-remote learning, affecting about 2,600 high-needs students who have been attending school part time since earlier this month. Students with high-needs include those with severe disabilities, English learners, and those facing homelessness.
The news came as Boston’s coronavirus positivity rate for the week ending Oct. 17 jumped to 5.7 percent, up from 4.4 percent the week prior.
In an interview Wednesday, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said returning all students to remote learning was a difficult decision, especially given the benefits of in-person instruction for high-needs students.
“They’re thriving in school, and they love to be there, but the health and safety of our residents and our students are the number one priority right now, especially our most vulnerable,” he said.