Currently, Boston Public Schools' leadership plans for Curley School students, staff, and faculty, to return to in-person learning on Nov. 22 due to a school-wide COVID outbreak.
Riley explained his reasoning in Nov. 11 letter to Acting Mayor Kim Janey, Boston School Committee Chair Jeri Robinson, and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius.
"I am particularly concerned that remote learning will not fully meet the academic and social emotional needs of our students, especially students with disabilities, English learners, and other vulnerable students," wrote Riley.
Riley referred to guidance from his office that as early as May 27, 2021, he said
remote learning would not count towards structured learning time for the 2021-
22 school year. He added that it's critical "...to do everything possible to enable all students to attend school in-person."
While the state's decision has drawn ire from the community, Boston Public Schools followed the guidance of the Boston Public Health Commission to switch to remote learning.
Gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz (D-2nd Suffolk) applauded Curley school leaders for sticking to remote learning after Riley's decision.
"The Curley School leaders and BPS know that, at the end of the day, the buck stops with them, not DESE, for keeping their students, staff, and families safe," said Chang-Díaz in a statement to Jamaica Plain News. "They have the trust of their parents and families to make this tough call, so they have my trust as well. If my kids were Curley students, I’d want the administration to follow the guidance of the Public Health Commission – and that’s exactly what they did."
The Curley School is in Chang-Díaz's district, as it is in state Rep. Nika Elugardo's (D-15th Suffolk) district.
"Principal Grassa and her team of stellar teachers have gone above and beyond to ensure there’s no break in the Curley children’s education while they are forced by public health guidelines to study from home," said Elugardo in a statement to Jamaica Plain News. "It’s deeply disappointing that DESE, though well meaning, is signaling that this hard work on the part of teachers, strident a and their families doesn’t count."
Chang-Díaz said judgment calls of this nature are highly situational.
"There were no easy or painless choices here, and it’s not clear that rolling, class or grade-level quarantines that DESE seems to be indicating would have resulted in less hardship for students with high vulnerabilities and their families," said Chang-Díaz.
Chang-Díaz said she wants the situation to be used as a learning opportunity for a case study "...that can help the state fill gaps in the testing resources available to schools and gaps in the COVID protocols that are supposed to guide schools in the case of outbreaks."
Chang-Díaz was glad to see there is a planned vaccine clinic for the Curley School, and she hopes that all parents of eligible children will get them vaccinated.
Elugardo added that she hopes Riley and the DESE will reverse its "counterproductive decision" and that she is advocating for the governor and Riley to do so.