As Schools Across the U.S. Move to Reopen Doors, Boston Does an About-Face

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Credit…Brian Snyder/Reuters

One moment Boston parents were looking forward to school doors reopening sooner or later for kindergartners and pre-kindergarteners. The next they were learning that those few students who had already been allowed back in person were being sent back home.

“I am heartbroken that today we have to close our doors to our highest-need students,” Boston’s schools superintendent, Brenda Cassellius, said Wednesday.

It was a microcosm of the disarray across the country as school districts try to get back to normal — or at least something vaguely resembling it.

In suspending their attempt to resume in-person learning in public schools, Boston officials cited the city’s rising tide of coronavirus cases.

After starting the school year remotely for all students last month, the city began a phased reopening on Oct. 1, allowing about 3,000 high-needs students to attend in-person classes at least two days a week. Those students include some with disabilities, as well as those who have experienced homelessness and those who are still learning English.

The next phase, which would have brought back kindergartners and pre-kindergarteners, had been scheduled for as soon as mid-October, but was recently delayed.

For now, all that is over — at least, in Boston.

Elsewhere in the country, more large districts are beginning to open schools, reassured by the fact that there is not clear evidence at this point of significant transmission in schools, especially among younger children.

In North Carolina, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools welcomed prekindergarten students back to classrooms last week and plans to bring in other students in phases over the coming weeks and months.

The San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest district in California, last week brought back students identified as needing in-person instruction or services.

In Texas, dozens of school districts are not just offering in-person instruction again, they are requiring it, to the concern of some parents.

In New York City, after reopening schools for in-person learning, officials began closing some in neighborhoods where cases were flaring up.

And in Los Angeles, the largest district in California and the second largest in the country, there is still no date set for a return to class because it has not yet met the standards set by the state for opening schools. San Francisco has met those standards — but the superintendent has said that schools will not be ready to open until 2021.

Boston’s decision to walk back its plans came after the city’s seven-day average positivity rate for coronavirus testing increased to 5.7 percent.

The city said that it would welcome back high-needs students when the positivity rate declined to 5 percent or below for two consecutive weeks, and that it would begin the phased return of other students when…

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