Boston officials have changed course, saying they will not open a virtual school in the fall, a choice that was popular among some Black and Latino families.
"It's too late in the year to start up a full K-12 school," Superintendent Brenda Cassellius told the Boston School Committee Wednesday. "We will not have our own BPS virutal school next year."
Cassellius said she thought the district could have opened the school if it had gotten the "green light" in June, but the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had questions about its plan and asked for revisions, "which put us into mid-July."
"It's just too short a time for us to do that in a meaningful way," she said.
A spokesperson said the department offered feedback to Boston and other districts interested in opening a virtual school on June 4. Districts were expected to submit school-committee approved proposals by July 6.
Nine districts, including Natick, Attleborough and Brockton appear to be moving forward with their plans. Worcester dropped its plan for a virutal school earlier this month due to a lack of interest. Falmouth and Quabbin Regional have also said they will not pursue a virtual school option.
It's a change that appears to leave Boston students without a remote learning option in the fall. Under state rules, hybrid learning — a combination of in-person and remote learning — is not allowed.
After this story published, BPS spokesman Xavier Andrews said the district will seek to open a virtual school in the fall of 2022. Andrews also said BPS is also in the process of hiring a leader of virtual learning and will offer access to virtual learning for students in limited cases for health-related reasons this fall.
Virtual school appeared to be an attractive option, particularly among Black and Latino families surveyed by the district. About half of the families of color surveyed said they would be likely to send their child to the virtual school, compared to just 15 percent of white families.
Ruby Reyes, director of the Boston Education Justice Alliance, said she understands why.
"If I was a parent of color whose child experienced extreme bullying, or my child is medically fragile, the prospect of online learning is actually really interesting, it would be something I would consider," Reyes said. For "a lot of our families, one of their major concerns is bullying of their kids."
Cassellius said she would continue the hiring search for a virtual school principal, but did not elaborate on further plans. A spokesman did not respond to requests for additional information.
Under the city's proposal to the state, the virtual school would have served as many as 1,000 students in grades 6-12. Admissions would have been open but preference would have gone to students with physical or other needs that make it difficult for them to attend school in person. Some parents of color view the schools as a helpful alternatives to traditional educational models, while some students like how a flexible schedule allows them to take jobs during the day.
Reyes said many special needs students struggled taking classes online during the pandemic. She noted that district officials would have needed to address those concerns or risk widening student achievement gaps.
This story has been updated to include information provided by Boston Public Schools after the original story published.