As the city of Boston begins to hammer out plans for the upcoming school year, Mayor Marty Walsh said Thursday that he's hoping to implement a hybrid in-person and remote learning model. In the tentative plan Boston Public Schools released Wednesday, half of the city's students would attend school in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays, and half on Thursdays and Fridays.
But Walsh also said parents, teachers and other employees still have to weigh in, and that policies created in the COVID-19 era are always subject to change.
"A great deal of research, dialogue, thought, and care went into this draft," Walsh said. "But it is a draft, and the process of getting input and feedback is going to continue. [Superintendent Brenda Cassellius] is going to be meeting with the unions, with employees, and with public-stakeholder groups."
Walsh also said he's concerned about how a continued reliance on remote learning could impact BPS students with limited resources, as well as English language learners and students with disabilities. But he indicated that, in the end, public health considerations will be paramount.
"One week from today, I could be standing at this podium and saying, 'We've had a big increase this past week,' which means we would not be talking about sending our kids to school September 10," Walsh said. "So this is going to be an ongoing, fluid situation."
In the plan currently under consideration, parents who want their kids to only learn remotely would be able to opt out of in-person schooling.
Walsh was asked, at his Thursday media availability, if he's concerned about how college students returning to Boston this fall could impact the city's COVID-19 situation.
In response, Walsh said the state hasn't yet issued clear guidance to colleges, and that his administration has been talking with local higher-ed institutions as they formulate their own reopening plans.
Still, he added, he's apprehensive about the implications of thousands of students coming to Boston from other parts of the country.
"Seeing what's happening around the country certainly is concerning me," Walsh said. "Many of our college students that come to Boston ... are going to be coming from high-risk states at this point. So we're going to be monitoring the situation very closely.
"It's a double-edged sword," he continued. "I'd love to see the college students come back — for their education, for our colleges, and for our economy. But also, I'm concerned about, if we don't have a [really] good screening process, what does that mean for our numbers down the road?"
Walsh was also asked about the potential epidemiological implications of people flocking to Landsdowne Street, adjacent to Fenway Park, on Red Sox game days, when the street will be pedestrian-only and establishments will offer outdoor dining.
His answer suggests he won't be heading to Landsdowne Street for a game in the near future.
"I know that it's exciting here in the city," Walsh said. "The Red Sox are starting Friday, and people want to be around the park. ... But honestly, for your own health interest, it's not necessarily the best place to be — around large crowds. ... So my suggestion is ... we'll be watching the Red Sox, the Bruins, the Celtics, and hopefully the Patriots in September. Most of it, I think, will be on TV, until it's safe to go back to the stadiums."
Walsh also announced a new partnership with CVS to provide drive-through COVID-19 testing to Boston residents. It begins this Friday, at the CVS in West Roxbury, and will expand to other CVS locations in the coming months.
Testing appointments can be made online at CVS.com and are free of charge, but are limited to individuals over 18 who have COVID-19 symptoms, have recently attended a large public gathering, were recently exposed to COVID-19, or work in specific types of facilities where exposure is likely.