Public Schools in Boston shut down three days ago as the city and state try to control the spread of the coronavirus. WGBH News' Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius to learn more about how the school system is helping students and families during the shutdown. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: It's hard to think it's been only three days. What have you learned so far this week?

Brenda Cassellius: Well, it absolutely feels like it's longer than three days, that's for sure. But what we've learned this week is number one, we need to get the word out. We know that there are children and families who need resources and food, so if neighbors could talk to each other and spread the word that Boston Public Schools is giving out food, that we have Chromebooks for continuity of learning, that would be really, really helpful. Even though we're sending out texts and emails and calls from our teachers and our principals, the word just hasn't gone out to everybody. We know some of our students are vulnerable, so we want to make sure that neighbors are talking.

Mathieu: We were on hand when you began distributing meals earlier this week, Superintendent. Are you suggesting not everyone showing up who you expected?

Cassellius: Well, the numbers have been growing each and every day, so that's good. That means that the word is starting to get out. But we think that there are more. It could be that some of the families have stocked up prior, last week, but we want to make sure that every single child has what they need. I know that our teachers are going to start contacting all of our students and families if they haven't already once we get these Chromebooks delivered.

Mathieu: Understood. Now that we're on the air together here, Superintendent, we should make sure people know. We're talking breakfast, lunch, and in some cases, you're making dinner available as well. A third meal for families.

Cassellius: Yes, we have breakfast and lunch for our families, and then I know the city has sites across Boston as well. So if you need help, go to or

Mathieu: You mentioned the Chromebooks. Mayor Walsh says the city has bought thousands of these laptop computers to give to students. How is that being handled?

Cassellius: We have a wonderful IT guy here in Boston Public Schools who has had the forethought to put some on order because the supply is short across the nation. But we had someone order and we'd already planned to have them for next school year with a large rollout. So we had the resources set aside as well as our philanthropic community has just stepped up, and some of our vendors and funders have been able to help us with the distribution of the Chromebooks as well as Wi-Fi for our families. So we're very excited to be able to have this plan for continuity of learning for our children, to be able to be more connected with one another and continue their peer relationships and their relationships with their teacher, which is so important once we restart school.

Mathieu: I guess we live in a time, Superintendent, where we all need a really good IT guy, don't we, just to get through the day?

Cassellius: Oh, we sure do.

Mathieu: Now, so how's it going at home for people? Are you hearing from parents and teachers themselves experiencing long distance learning?

Cassellius: Well, not only are our teachers stepping up, I'm just so excited that parents are as well. They've been going to the Internet,Tweeting and sharing information on social media, Facebook and Pinterest. [They're] just using the opportunity really to help them also parent.

My suggestion to parents is that they create a quiet space, that they create a schedule for their children throughout the day, that they make sure that the children get outside and play some part of the day and that they interact and engage with them and put their screens down and their phones down. Limit the news media, because the 24/7 news media is really difficult on children. So really important for that. And then if you have pets or other items in your household that bring joy, sing together, play together, take out the old board games and just have fun together as a family.

Mathieu: I think I may have been guilty of doing that, Superintendent Cassellius. My wife just asked me yesterday to stop with the news all day. We're all trying to find information, but you have to be careful about how you gather it around kids.

Cassellius: Well, you just need to shut down every now and then because otherwise it becomes really, really challenging for children. They're used to playing and being with their peers, and we want to protect against social isolation on the screens. And we want to be sure that they're really having these opportunities to positively engage with one another, with their classmates and with each other. It's really good that if there's another sibling in the home that you intentionally try to provide time for the siblings to get together because that's not always natural.

Mathieu: That's right, too. School's supposed to be closed until April 27, far longer than the governor ordered for the state. Do you have a plan, Superintendent, in case schools are closed the rest of the year?

Cassellius: Yes, we're working on all of those plans. The first was just this seven week plan. Then the next is if it goes longer to the end of the year. We're also planning for if there is any kind of contingency around a shelter in like we've seen across the rest of the nation. So we are planning ahead and trying to think of everything, but of course, none of us have done this before, so this is quite unprecedented for all of us. But again, our team has rallied. I am so proud of the Boston Public Schools family that we have and all of our community for the support that they're giving. It's just Boston Strong all around.