Mayor Visits Muniz Academy, Headmaster Asks For More Rapid Tests, Protocols Clarity, Multilingual Comms and More

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Boston Mayor Michelle remained outside during her early morning visit on Tuesday to the Margarita Muniz Academy. Wu visited to understand the school experience regarding COVID during the recent surge.

Left to right: BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, Mayor Michelle Wu, and At-Large Boston City Councilor Erin Murphy, greeted students at the Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain on January 4, 2022, with Muniz's Headmaster Dania Vazquez, far right. (Mayor's Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

Wu said "it's been a very difficult time" for school communities, students, staff, school leaders, and administrators during the recent surge of the omicron variant. Wu said the variant has "effected everything that needs to logistically happen."

Wu was joined by At-Large Boston City Councilors Erin Murphy and Ruthzee Louijeune, BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius, and Muniz Headmaster Dania Vazquez

Cassellius said there are three key things they're looking at to make sure of safe operations: a) staffing b) health and safety in the schools c) operational effectiveness of schools.

Cassellius provided statistics as of Tuesday morning. She reported:

  • 1,000 staff were out across the BPS system
  • 52 bus drivers were out on Tuesday
  • 461 classroom teachers were out across the system on Tuesday
  • 42 schools were without about 20% of their staff
  • 60 central staff office employees were deployed throughout the district to help address staffing shortages

"It does make it for a difficult start to the day," said Cassellius. She said BPS central staff are working with school leaders, and that only about four of them felt they could not work with the size of the staff present on Tuesday.

BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius spoke outside of the Margarita Muniz Academy in Jamaica Plain on January 4, 2022, to discuss the recent COVID-19 surge due to the omicron variant. (Mayor's Office Photo by Isabel Leon)

Cassellius said she anticipated that more schools and classrooms would be affected by COVID. She implored parents to stay close to their phones, and said the best way to receive information is often from school leaders at school sites.

Regarding transportation, Cassellius said there have been bus driver shortages throughout the school year, and it was obviously worse on Tuesday. She said BPS is doing "anything humanly possible to get bus drivers in those buses."

She said BPS would assess schools and classrooms on a case by case basis.

Vazquez told Wu and Cassellius of her concerns, and asked for more flexibility in making decisions during the surge. Vazquez added she wanted more rapid tests, more clarity on protocols, timeliness of decisions and multilingual communication to families using a variety of outreach modes.